Benton County commissioners on Tuesday reversed an earlier decision that would have allowed Kennewick to move forward on a plan to attract large-scale industrial development to help replace Hanford jobs.
Commissioners previously approved expanding Kennewick’s urban growth area by 1,263 acres south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395 for industrial development, but the state Growth Management Hearings Board overruled them.
Futurewise, a Seattle-based advocacy group, had appealed the Benton County commissioners’ approval to the hearings board, which decided in November that Benton County commissioners made a mistake when they approved the expansion in February 2014.
Commissioners did not receive any public comment on the reversal of the urban growth area expansion during Tuesday’s commission meeting. County planning manager Mike Shuttleworth said Futurewise submitted written comments in favor of the commission rescinding its previous decision.
City officials have not abandoned plans to expand Kennewick’s boundaries to include the land south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395. That’s still a plan Kennewick, with a shortage of available land for industrial development, wants to pursue.
Kennewick officials see the expansion as a way to bring more jobs into the community. They hope to market it to a range of companies.
For now, city staff are working with the county to reconcile planning policies. Discrepancies were among the reasons the hearings board decided against the expansion, said Evelyn Lusignan, city customer service manager.
The hearings board found the county violated state law and its own planning policies by agreeing to change the zoning from agricultural to industrial. The board said there was not enough evidence to change the land from long-term significant agricultural land to industrial, even though city officials say information from the majority landowner makes it clear his property is not commercially viable as farmland.
Futurewise, in addition arguing that the urban growth area expansion violated the state Growth Management Act, also argued that 1,263 acres should be protected as valuable agricultural land.
The hearings board also said the city and county should document whether population growth backs up a need for the additional industrial land and submit a complete development proposal for the property.