A panel of appellate judges on Thursday affirmed the Richland City Council's approval of the preliminary plat and rezoning for The Crest development in south Richland.
But in a separate decision, the court rejected the argument that challenges by south Richland residents Hans and Dana Vogel to a proposal to make part of Meadow Hills Drive a private road were untimely.
The private road issue was sent back to Benton County Superior Court for consideration.
John Ziobro, attorney for the Vogels, described the decision on the private road issue as "winning the battle."
But with the separate decision validating the preliminary plat, the war appeared to be tipping in favor of the city and developer Milo Bauder.
City officials hadn't seen the decisions Thursday afternoon and couldn't comment.
The development has been the subject of a land-use lawsuit by nearby residents who primarily have objected to the amount of traffic the proposed 145-unit housing development would add to Morency Drive in south Richland's Crested Hills development -- another Bauder development.
The city council approved in late 2007 the plat and rezone of 41 acres where Bauder proposed to build The Crest, over the objections of the Vogels and other residents of Crested Hills, who expressed concerns that Morency wasn't designed to handle the kind of traffic The Crest would bring.
Court documents said the Vogels argued Morency should be considered a local street -- a designation intended to handle fewer than 1,000 car trips per day.
Morency was designated in the city's comprehensive plan at the time as a local street, but city officials said that was an error and Morency really is designated a collector street, or one intended to handle up to 1,500 trips per day.
Residents of Crested Hills told the city they believe Morency is too narrow to handle traffic from The Crest. The Vogels sued, claiming the city was in error in relying on the collector street designation preliminary plat approval, according to court documents.
A Benton County Superior Court judge found against the Crested Hills residents, but they appealed to the Court of Appeals Division III in Spokane. Arguments were heard on the appeal in November 2010.
The decision Thursday on the private road issue sends back to court the question whether making a portion of Meadow Hills Drive was a major or minor amendment to the approved development plans.
The Vogels argue it was a major amendment that should have been considered by the Planning Commission and City Council, and required a public process.
City staff members decided the change was a minor amendment and gave verbal approval to the private road, court documents said.
Ziobro wasn't certain on Thursday whether his clients would appeal the preliminary plat decision to the state Supreme Court. They have roughly 30 days to decide.
"We think there are still issues and arguments we could refine," he said.
And Bauder or the city could decide to appeal the decision in the Vogels' favor on the private road issue, he said.