RICHLAND -- A homeowners association in Richland will seek public support to pursue its court fight with the city over a proposed Keene Road subdivision.
The Sagewood Meadows Homeowners Association has filed an appeal in Benton County Superior Court against the city's approval of the new subdivision adjacent to the homes of association members.
The association set a news conference Thursday to seek public support, in part because it is running out of money to pay for the court case filed in September.
The project is just north of the intersection of Keene Road and West Gage Boulevard. Residents of the new subdivision would have to use Elementary Street and Sagewood Street as access roads to their homes.
The suit's central claim is that the city did not consider the effects of traffic on student safety at a nearby elementary school and that it misrepresented the subdivision's traffic impact on the Sagewood Street cul-de-sac.
The association also contends that the city cut off public input into the approval process too early.
Sagewood no longer would be a dead end under the plans but would carry through traffic to the new subdivision, said Gregory Jones, an association representative.
The change will boost traffic on the street by 81 percent to more than 1,000 daily car trips on average, Jones said.
The city categorizes Sagewood as a local street, meaning it is designed to average no more than 1,000 car trips a day.
The city disagrees that the 39 new homes would push the total above that limit. A city report from July foresees about 850 trips a day on Sagewood with the new subdivision.
The neighborhood association has asked the city to add a street to connect Keene Road directly to the new subdivision. But that runs counter to city plans to avoid new street connections to major traffic arteries and minimize cars turning across several lanes of traffic at intersections without traffic lights.
The intersection of Elementary Street and Keene Road will be outfitted with a stoplight soon, Steve Stairs, city transportation engineer, has said.
The association also claims in its appeal the city did not consider that students at Badger Mountain Elementary School would face more traffic on their way home.
But a Richland School District official said he was consulted before the city council approved the project.
"From what I saw, there were no immediate things jumping out at me," said Mark Panther, the district's director of support services.
The district provides measures to protect students, he said.
Lastly, the association claimed the public was not given sufficient time for input. The planning commission met twice, allowing public comment each time.
But once it forwarded its recommendation to the city council, the matter was placed on the council's consent agenda and approved without further public comment.
"We appealed the fact that the city didn't allow continued public discussion and didn't comply with city procedures," Jones said. "People need to go (to the city) and get their voices heard."
The association has spent about $4,000 on the appeal, Jones said.
It could cost $10,000 more, which would make the process cost-prohibitive for the group, he said.
-- Jacques Von Lunen: 509-582-1402; email@example.com