Benton County commissioners decided to wait two months before deciding whether to adopt rules that would allow private roads to serve no more than four parcels when property is short-platted for housing.
The board voted 3-0 Monday to delay action on the measure after a public hearing produced no support and lots of protest about the proposed changes.
"This makes is difficult for people who want to divide their property," said Rick Russum, owner of Worley Surveying in Kennewick.
"It's hard to see this as anything except anti-growth," said Ryan Liddicoat, who works for Russum.
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The proposed changes to short-platting would eliminate the longtime practice property owners have used to create multiple lots served by a single private road.
The changes also would limit the number of lots that can be created along existing private roads to no more than 50. And if more than four parcels are to be created, property owners would have to set aside a 40-foot-wide easement and build a road to county standards.
Glen Clark, a Kennewick real estate broker, said having a 50-lot limit is not practical in certain areas, such as Harrington Road in West Richland, where there is no feasible way to cross the Yakima River and provide a second access, and on Yakitat Road near Benton City, where there's no possibility for a second road to connect to a public road.
Clark said requiring a 40-foot wide access was "ludicrous and too wide."
Jeff Losey, executive director for the Homebuilders Association of the Tri-Cities, suggested the commissioners slow down and invite more discussion through a public forum he'd be willing to have at the association's offices on Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick.
"Let's not make it harder for people to develop their properties. We're in favor of getting everybody together," Losey said.
Wayne Langford of Kennewick said the proposed rules limiting the number of lots that could be served by a private road would devalue land people have held for the purpose of short-platting.
"We are not anti-growth here," said Commissioner Leo Bowman, who noted that the real problem was how to ensure that property owners would cooperate to maintain their private roads properly.
Bowman pointed out that Benton County's short-plat rules aren't as restrictive as in Franklin County, which allows only two lots to be served by a private road, and Walla Walla County, which allows four lots on a private road.
Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. proposed, with Bowman and chairman Jim Beaver agreeing, to continue the public hearing on Feb. 7 so a community meeting, as suggested by Losey, could be held.
"Perhaps we'll find a smoother road," Bowman said.
"Apparently we have been doing this wrong for 42 years," he added.