The Kennewick City Council on Tuesday in a 5-1 vote approved a rezone application by Grace Clinic that will let the nonprofit operate expanded free medical services on Canal Drive.
Councilman Bob Parks was the lone vote against the rezone, telling the Herald after the meeting that he didn't think the clinic was "the right fit."
Grace Clinic has been working on a plan to move into the old Benton Franklin Health District building for almost a year, but first had to negotiate a lease with the health district and then clear a zoning hurdle that would have barred the nonprofit from moving into the building.
The district's former Kennewick office -- which also was the location for a medical clinic that offered immunizations and some other services -- has been vacant since the district moved into a new building on West Okanogan Place next to the Benton County Justice Center.
The zoning and comprehensive plan designation for the land where the Canal Drive building sits was changed to light industrial sometime while the health district occupied the building. Light industrial zones don't allow for medical clinics.
Because the health district already was there when the change happened, it was allowed to continue operating as a legal nonconforming use -- a status that basically says because land already was used a certain way when the zoning changed, it can be allowed to continue even though it might not otherwise be permitted under the new zoning.
But the city code says if that use stops for six months or more, the legal nonconforming use status goes away, so Grace Clinic had to look at another zoning option.
The clinic, after conversations with city staffers, settled on the "business park" zone, which will allow the clinic to operate, but won't conflict with how surrounding properties are zoned and used.
Grace Clinic Board President Marc Brault said with the rezone approved, the clinic will be able to move in by the end of September.
The clinic offers free medical, dental and mental health care to people with incomes below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, or less than $44,700 a year for a family of four.
Taking over the Canal Street building gives Grace Clinic an extra 3,000 square feet compared to its current site on Clearwater Avenue, and that space will be used to increase its dental offerings and add vision care services as well as fitness and health and wellness programs to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
The move also will save the clinic about $68,000 per year in rent that could be used to broaden patient services.
Also Tuesday, the council voted 5-1 against rezoning a parcel of land between West Clearwater Avenue and West 10th Avenue west of Clodfelter Road from "Residential Manufactures Home" to "Residential Medium Density."
The rezone would have reduced the allowable lot size, and consensus among council members was that the rezone was too dense to fit with their plans for development of Kennewick.
Councilman R.E. "Bob" Olson was the sole vote in favor of the rezone.
Councilman John Hubbard was absent from the meeting.