RICHLAND -- The Richland City Council opted not to rezone land near Claybell Park for lower density development in a 5-1 decision Tuesday night.
About 200 residents signed a petition asking the city to change the land use from medium-density to low-density residential for 13 acres owned by Duane and Cheryl Smith between the Willowbrook subdivision and the park.
They cited concerns that medium-density development -- in this case up to eight residential units per acre -- would dump too much traffic into their neighborhood and hurt property values.
But the law doesn't allow residents to initiate a zoning or land use change on someone else's property -- only the property owner or city can do that.
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"This is somewhat unusual," said Rick Simon, city development services manager.
The Smiths objected to having their property rezoned. Their attorney, Alan Wallace of Seattle, told the council Tuesday that the petition was misleading by claiming the development would be "high-density." He said the city is bound by an agreement on the books since 1978 that created the current zoning.
Mayor John Fox and council members Sandra Kent, Ed Revell, David Rose and Sheila Sullivan agreed with Wallace.
"Normally I'm a huge proponent of going with what the community has to say," Kent said. But she said the development agreement is a promise between the city and the property owners that shouldn't be broken.
Revell questioned whether the kind of townhouse development planned for the land -- which Simon said could hold a maximum of 67 units because of regulations to protect nearby Amon Creek -- would generate as much traffic as the Willowbrook residents thought.
"I live in a condo development with 68 units and I can tell you the traffic is not an issue," Revell said.
Councilman Phil Lemley disagreed, saying medium-density development would be incompatible with the nearby single-family homes.
Also Tuesday, the council agreed to have a special meeting next Tuesday to interview applicants for two open seats on the Public Facilities District board. The board is overseeing development of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.
The council agreed to wait until after new board members are appointed to consider writing a letter addressing a disagreement between the facilities district board and the nonprofit organization raising money for the museum.
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org