An area landowner wants to expand a subdivision and help with access to Candy Mountain. But he’s run into trouble getting his plans approved.
Kerry Watts, who wants to develop 46 acres at the base of the mountain, is looking to do an equal swap of 7.3 acres with the Friends of Badger Mountain.
The group seeks to buy land on Candy Mountain to connect it to Badger Mountain as part of a trail system.
Watts has plans to build a 40-lot addition to the Candy Mountain Estates subdivision. Each of the homes would have sweeping views of the Horse Heaven Hills and the Tri-Cities.
Swapping the land would be beneficial to Watts and Friends of Badger — the area he owns higher up the hill would be a great spot for a trailhead, he said. He wants to donate an additional 11/2 acres so the group can put in a restroom and parking lot.
Watts wants the land so he can connect utilities between land he now owns on both sides. He would also be able to build more houses there.
But the land cannot be swapped because the property Watts wants is outside of West Richland’s urban growth area, and the property he now has is inside it, said Mike Shuttleworth, Benton County planning manager. Developers cannot serve land outside the area with city utilities.
“It’s the Growth Management Act that regulates what we can do,” Shuttleworth said. “If they want to annex it into the city, it has to be in the urban growth area.”
Changes to the urban growth area can only be made every five years, Shuttleworth said. County commissioners most recently approved changes in October 2014, when West Richland brought 94 acres, including the former Tri-City Raceway, into the urban growth area.
That means West Richland will next be able to apply to change the urban growth area in 2018, with the earliest county commissioners could approve it in late 2019, Shuttleworth said.
Watts would like to go to the state Legislature to try to get help changing the law if nothing can be done. But, if they can’t trade land in the county for land in the urban growth area, he would still like to do the land swap so he can run utility lines across the unincorporated property to connect the different parts of the subdivision.
Homes would not be able to be built on the higher parts of the proposed development without being able to have water lines cross the county land, Watts said.
That would need permission from the county.
“We just wish they would let us do that,” Watts said.
Friends of Badger are not opposed to the land swap, but are not involved in the effort, said Sharon Grant, the group’s co-founder. The swap would add to their effort if it goes through, but would not interfere with it if it fails.
“It would give us an opportunity to have a trailhead on the north side of Candy Mountain,” she said. “That would make it easily accessible for the neighborhood and West Richland.”
Friends of Badger has applied to receive $695,377 from the state Recreation and Conservation Office to help it buy 200 acres on Candy Mountain, where it would like to create a preserve similar to what is now at Badger Mountain. The state Senate and House have included funding for the grant in their proposed budgets.
The Friends hope to be able to match the grant and pay for trail construction by early summer. The group still needs to raise around $95,000, assuming it gets the grant, Grant said. It would also like to raise an additional $100,000 to cover closing costs and the start of trail construction.
The group would like to build a trail near Dallas Road that goes under Interstate 182 and between Badger and Candy mountains.
Friends of Badger has a two-year agreement to buy the Candy Mountain property from owners Robert Margulies and Mark Ufkes. Watts could buy the land if the agreement expires.
Watts has conceptual plans showing all of Candy Mountain covered with housing if an agreement to make it a preserve falls through, he said. But he hopes not to have to follow through with it.
“I don’t want to intrude on nature trails and things like that, but if that’s what I’m forced to do ... ” he said. “I’d rather leave the hillside for the Friends of Badger.”