West Richland urban growth area request going to commissioners

By Kristi Pihl Tri-City HeraldJuly 8, 2014 

West Richland's request to expand its urban growth area to include the former Tri-City Raceway is moving to Benton County commissioners for approval with an unanimous recommendation from the county planning commission.

No one spoke against adding the 94 acres adjacent to city boundaries into the city's urban growth area at Tuesday's public hearing.

"I think it's a win-win situation," said Martin Sheeran, planning commission chairman.

The city of West Richland wants to move the industrial land into the city so sewer and water -- which is at the edge of the raceway property -- can be extended, said Nicole Stickney, West Richland's planning and economic development manager.

There are high levels of nitrates in the groundwater, so city water would be needed for it to be developed, she said.

The city and Port of Kennewick plan a development that would complement the wine industry. The raceway is in a strategic location for industrial and commercial development, close to the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area and the planned Red Mountain interchange on Interstate 82.

It's the second time the city has asked to expand its urban growth area in recent years.

But this proposal is markedly different from the 2009 expansion proposal that included 747 acres, which was overturned at the state level after receiving approval from Benton County.

This time, West Richland asked for a smaller chunk -- just the former Tri-City Raceway off Highway 224 near Keene Road that the port bought in 2008 for $1.8 million.

The 94 acres also includes a Benton Rural Electric Association substation. The utility has the capacity to provide electricity to the development and supports the proposal, said Troy Berglund, Benton REA's manager of community development and community relations.

Adding the former raceway to the city's urban growth area will help West Richland answer the question of how industrial and commercial development can grow the tax base and help the city pay for needed services, said Nikki Geiszler, president of the West Richland Chamber of Commerce.

As a bedroom community, West Richland lacks a commercial and industrial base that provides sales and property tax revenue.

The city only has 30 acres of industrial land within city limits, according to county documents.

"We need more tax money so we can provide our essential services," Stickney said.

Red Mountain attracts international and national visitors, but West Richland lacks a hotel or motel where those visitors can stay, Stickney said.

City officials are primarily hoping for wine production development on the raceway property. Proposals for the site also include related uses.

The former raceway could appeal to wine production beyond Red Mountain because of the unique connection it would have to West Richland's water and sewer systems, said Larry Peterson, the port's director of planning and development.

The city will build a wine wastewater treatment facility near the raceway to pretreat water from wineries, Stickney said. The city is designing the treatment facility, with plans for it to be finished next year.

Estimates put about 95 percent of the state's wine grapes grown within 75 miles of the Tri-City area, said Russ Connole, West Richland's community development director.

"We hope to bring more jobs, more economic development," he said.

The former raceway is a significant opportunity for the Tri-City region, said Bryson Bailey, the Tri-City Development Council's business recruitment director. Developing the property has the chance of pulling in additional investment in tourism and related businesses, including transportation, warehouses and distribution centers.

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

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