The debate on a set of proposed hillside development regulations for Kennewick has been put off until spring.
The Kennewick Planning Commission unanimously decided to grant the request from several developers and builders to postpone the public hearing on the changes until March 2.
The city planning department already had received seven letters and emails from developers, builders and real estate agents in opposition to the potential changes related to retaining walls, manmade slopes, building placement and heights, and road and lot layout. City Planner Anthony Muai said those were the areas the city council identified when it asked staff to research options earlier this year.
City staff had drafted a series of questions for the planning commission to consider with options for each category.
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Any changes to the regulations could impact any future development at Canyon Lakes, Inspiration Estates and Thompson Hill, said Jeff Losey, executive director for the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities. It also would affect any new land that becomes part of Kennewick as the city grows.
Brett Lott, president of the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities, questioned why such changes were even needed.
“Developers and builders working with slopes and on hillsides already use geotechnical engineers to ensure the safety and stability of their projects, and that process seems to be working in the city of Kennewick and other areas,” Lott wrote to the commission. “It’s unclear why hillside development regulations such as these are necessary, unless the intent is to regulate design and not engineering or safety.”
Nathan Machiela, Hayden Homes land development manager, wrote in an email, “I do believe that nearly all of the potential changes would inhibit development, lower density, increase development and home costs and require increased maintenance with very little benefit to reduced safety or reduced failures.”
Machiela most objects to the proposed regulations concerning manmade slopes, which he said would make lots larger and lower density. Hayden Homes has built in the Tri-Cities for 20 years and has constructed about 85 homes in Kennewick this year.
Stephenie Monson, Valiant Homes president and general contractor, said the proposed changes are not needed, adding that Kennewick’s existing landscaping code already is strict enough.
“These proposed changes serve absolutely no purpose other than making development of our prime hillside land impossible,” she said in an email to the planning commission.
Developer Milo Bauder described the regulations as purely aesthetic in a letter to the planning commission. He and developer Grant Young have started a new development on the southwest side of Thompson Hill called SouthCliffe. The development has 400 lots.
“We recently completed phase 1 of SouthCliffe,” he wrote. “We adhered to the current landscaping code, and have a beautiful subdivision, with vegetation-covered entry points and streetscapes. To add to what is already required is completely unfounded.”
Christa Sasser, designated broker and owner of Distinctive Properties, echoed Bauder’s analysis that the suggested rules were aesthetic.
“If we want to stay in the game for providing hillside neighborhoods rather than giving them up to Richland, we should simply not consider these additional requirements,” she wrote in an email to the planning commission.
The commission decided to postpone the hearing before hearing a staff report or taking any in-person testimony.