The Richland City Council is going to wait two weeks before making a decision on a controversial zoning change that would allow construction of a 44-unit condo project near Meadow Hills Drive.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to put off what Councilman Terry Christensen called a very difficult decision while about 70 people, half of them wearing bright green T-shirts, displayed their opposition to the project.
Attorney Shea Meehan, of Walker Heye & Meehan in Richland, told the council TMT Homes' proposal to place four seven-story buildings on a slope in a neighborhood of single-family homes was a bad fit.
Meehan represented Dale and Sophia Atkinson, residents in the neighborhood who voiced their opposition at the July 25 planning commission hearing where the project received a 5-2 recommendation for approval if it was reduced to 32 or 33 units.
Atkinson and their neighbors filled council chambers wearing T-shirts that said, "Tri-Cities Friends for Responsible Hillside Development."
"Most of the people here who are opposed to this live in houses I built," said Tony Tahvilli, the developer for the condo project.
Elizabeth Tellessen, an attorney with Winston and Cashatt in Spokane, said the delay was appropriate, given the complexity of the issue.
"It is legally allowed and (we) want the council to be fully informed so they can stand behind the decision they make," she said.
Meehan said he and his clients were disappointed the council didn't reject the proposal, but recognize time is needed to make the right decision.
"This is an important decision. It does not create a more desirable environment and cuts into a hillside with a 23-degree slope," Meehan said.
Councilman Bob Thompson said a closed-door session might be appropriate given all the long-range ramifications involved with constructing the condominiums on the hillside in an existing neighborhood.
Councilman Phil Lemley said he, too, wasn't ready to vote.
"I'm not prepared tonight," he said.
Christensen called the issue one of the most difficult he's encountered as a councilman.
"This is going to take some time to do it. I'd like to table this to next council meeting," he said. Thompson was quick to second the motion.
The council plans to revisit the issue Sept. 18, with the possibility of a closed-door session starting at 6:30 p.m.
The project as proposed has 40 units at 3,150 square feet each and 1,200 square feet of deck. There also will be one two-story penthouse of 5,650 square feet with nearly 3,000 square feet in two decks for each of the four buildings.
About seven acres will be left for open space, walkways and the city street.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; email@example.com.