Kennewick City Council OKs new commercial zone on Columbia Drive

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJuly 1, 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

The pleas from some Columbia Drive business owners to slow down didn't stop the Kennewick City Council from voting to approve a new commercial zone in a split 4-3 vote Tuesday.

The vote means north Columbia Drive between the blue and cable bridges will be designated as a commercial community zone instead of a general commercial zone, which is a hybrid of industrial and commercial uses.

City officials have 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 as soon as next year. The plan calls for 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.

But in the meantime, the zoning change means some standalone auto service shops aren't allowed uses, so expansion of shops is limited and new ones can't open.

Councilmen Bob Olson, Steve Young and John Trumbo voted against the change.

Olson, who previously suggested narrowing the area for the proposed zoning change, said Tuesday that the city should not make the change to commercial community. The city shouldn't get started down the wrong road, he said.

Councilman Bob Parks, who said he was originally concerned about the zoning change, changed his mind and said the new zoning was needed to protect the area during the interim.

The zoning change is about what the community wants to see developed on the vacant properties along Columbia Drive, said Larry Peterson, the Port of Kennewick's director of planning and development. Heavy commercial uses have a place in the community, but aren't part of the city's and port's vision for the Columbia Drive area.

No one here wants heavy industrial uses on the riverfront, said Ken Williamson, owner of John's Auto Mart on Columbia Drive. But he doesn't want to see some businesses get zoned out and then zoned back in.

It hasn't been clear about how business expansion would be limited for some existing businesses under the commercial community zoning, said Gus Kittson, president of Kennewick Industrial and Electrical Supply.

"It may be better to have a moratorium for nine months and that way you can do the whole thing correctly," Kittson said.

But Councilman Greg Jones said he would be concerned with limiting development on Columbia Drive for a year, since there are businesses proposing new development and may go elsewhere if they have to wait.

The Columbia Drive area near the blue bridge is a major gateway to Kennewick from the north, Mayor Pro Tem Don Britain said. And what visitors see is important, he said.

"I don't think any of us are throwing any business out or under the bus," Britain said.

The revitalization efforts will only increase the property value along Columbia Drive, Councilman Paul Parish said.

"We are trying to reclaim waterfront," he said.

The zoning 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.

-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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