The Richland City Council in a 4-3 vote on Tuesday opted for more time to mull over a proposed land swap with food processing conglomerate ConAgra Lamb Weston.
Council members learned Friday when they got information for this week's meeting that city staffers were recommending letting Lamb Weston trade 8.6 acres it purchased at Columbia Point for 80 acres in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park.
The frozen potato processor closed on the $1.43 million parcel at Columbia Point last year after more than three years of negotiations, and city staffers said the land at Horn Rapids would sell for about the same amount.
Gary Ballew, the city's economic development manager, told the council on Tuesday that the swap allows the city to avoid paying a 25 percent to 30 percent fee to Richland Triangle Limited Partnership, which has an option on land in the industrial park.
The agreement calls for the city to pay for building permit fees on the $35 million automated frozen food warehouse Lamb Weston plans to build there.
In exchange, the city would get back the Columbia Point land, which a representative for Lamb Weston said is worth two or three times what the company paid for it.
Jay B. Noddle, president of Noddle Companies of Omaha, Neb., spoke on behalf of Lamb Weston and said the company had put much effort into writing a deal that would be good for Richland, Lamb Weston and the rest of the Tri-Cities.
The company formerly had planned to build an office building at Columbia Point, but decided to keep its offices in Kennewick after the recession prompted the company to focus efforts on facilities that will let the company grow, Noddle said.
Carl Adrian, CEO of the Tri-City Development Council, said the swap would let the Tri-Cities keep the Lamb Weston office jobs while also adding jobs at the new warehouse.
Noddle said the warehouse would add 50 to 70 jobs.
He added that time is of the essence so Lamb Weston can move forward with its plans.
Councilmen Bob Thompson and David Rose said they didn't dislike the concept, but wanted more time to read the documents associated with the land swap.
"I'm not really comfortable with the process done," Rose said. "We got the information Friday afternoon in our packet and there was no chance to ask questions. ... I'm not happy with getting this thrown at us at a council meeting and you expect us to make a decision."
Thompson, Rose, Councilwoman Sheila Sullivan and Mayor Pro Tem Ed Revell voted against approving the agreement Tuesday.
A few minutes later, Thompson, Sullivan, Revell and Mayor John Fox voted to revisit the agreement before Dec. 6. Rose, Councilman Phil Lemley and Councilwoman Sandra Kent voted no.
The council next meets Nov. 29 and may vote on the agreement then.