Automotive shops decry rezoning proposal for Kennewick waterfront

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJune 25, 2014 

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An aerial view of Columbia Drive near the cable bridge over the Columbia River in Kennewick.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

KENNEWICK -- The push-back from auto business owners along Columbia Drive has some Kennewick city councilmen questioning the wisdom of a proposed rezone.

The rezone, which the council is expected to vote Tuesday after a public hearing, allows for auto sales but it also means some standalone auto service shops wouldn't be allowed.

Councilman Bob Olson suggested the city limit the area-wide zoning change to Columbia Drive between the cable bridge and Washington Street.

While current property uses would be grandfathered in, it would be better to wait to change the zoning for the rest of Columbia Drive to include an "auto row" zoning district, he said.

The proposal seeks to change the general commercial zoning, a hybrid of industrial and commercial uses, to commercial community in the area between Columbia Drive and the Columbia River and the blue and cable bridges.

City officials said the zoning change is an interim step before the council considers adopting and implementing the so-called Bridge to Bridge, River to Rail area plan.

Part of implementing that plan would include creating an "auto row" zoning district on Columbia Drive between Fruitland Street and Highway 395 that allows vehicle and RV sales and auto repair and service shops, said Greg McCormick, the city's planning director.

In the meantime, properties with auto service shops would have that use grandfathered in as long as the use is not abandoned for more than six months, he said.

Councilman Bob Parks also voiced support for an auto row. Auto businesses contribute a lot of sales tax for the city, he pointed out.

"We need to keep the good businesses," he said. And businesses should be brought up to the examples existing businesses such as Overturf Motors and Apollo Inc. have already set on Columbia Drive.

Parks suggested the city consider design standards for the Columbia Drive area.

Design standards could be part of the implementation of the bridge to bridge plan, McCormick said.

Councilman Paul Parish said they want to clean up Columbia Drive and raise the standards in a way that works. He envisions mixed-use buildings with condos on Columbia Drive.

The idea is to take the town's back door and change it into the front door with its riverfront, he said.

The zone change is part of the city and Port of Kennewick's efforts to inspire the beginnings of a boutique wine village on Columbia Drive.

The council approved a 90-day moratorium in mid-April on building permits for new projects on properties between Columbia Drive and the Columbia River and the blue and cable bridges to allow for the rezone. The moratorium ends July 15, McCormick said.

The Kennewick Planning Commission decided last week to recommend a zoning change for the north side of Columbia Drive in a 3-2 vote.

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