Kennewick has decided not to fight a recent state denial of its plans for large-scale industrial development — at least not in court.
The city council recently approved withdrawing an appeal of the state Growth Management Hearings Board’s refusal of an expansion of Kennewick’s urban growth area by 1,263 acres south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395.
The appeal in Benton County Superior Court had been filed to preserve the city’s option to appeal and give the city council time to consider options, said Lisa Beaton, Kennewick city attorney.
The board ruled Kennewick’s proposal violated state law because the city failed to show how anticipated population growth justified the expansion. The board also found there was not enough evidence to change the land from long-term significant agricultural land to industrial.
Futurewise, a Seattle-based advocacy group, had appealed the Benton County commissioners’ approval to the hearings board.
The city did not prevail on any of the issues raised by Futurewise, Beaton said. That would make it tough for the city to succeed in an appeal.
State legislators approved a law two years ago to allow Kennewick to claim land for industrial uses. However, the hearings board found that the new law did not give Kennewick a waiver for the older requirements in the state Growth Management Act.
City officials had hoped the city would have won over the newly adopted law, Beaton said, but the hearings board still found that the size of an urban growth area must be tied to population growth, even if it is for industrial use and not residential.
Had the city decided to appeal, the city would have been on its own, Beaton said. Kennewick Industrial Development, the proposed developer for the area, did not want to pursue an appeal.
Kennewick officials will work with Benton County to consider how the designation of long-term significant agricultural land could be removed from the 1,263 acres south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395. Information from the majority landowner makes it clear his property is not commercially viable as farmland, Beaton said.
“There is a disconnect between the reality of the property and the policies,” she said.
But the new state law that allows Kennewick to apply for an urban growth area expansion specificity for industrial development is set to expire Dec. 31, 2015. Beaton said the city will not be able to complete the planning work necessary in order to reapply before the law expires.
The city many need to seek an amendment to state law, she said.
Futurewise had asked the hearings board to reconsider a portion of its decision over a concern that Kennewick would annex the land anyway. But the hearings board denied the request and said Futurewise was basically re-arguing what it already had heard.