Kennewick is taking a step toward solving the city's shortage of industrial land available for development.
The Kennewick City Council unanimously approved Tuesday asking Benton County commissioners to expand the city's urban growth area to include about 1,263 acres of land south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395 for future industrial projects.
"Our No. 1 priority is the creation of jobs," Kennewick Mayor Steve Young told the Herald. "We don't have the land available for job creation."
Greg McCormick, Kennewick city planning director, told the Herald the city has turned away large industrial developers who wanted to build in Kennewick. The city lacks 50-acre and 100-acre areas that could be used for a large industrial development.
This expansion will improve Kennewick's ability to attract economic development and new jobs, he said.
The easy access to I-82 and Highway 395 will help attract industrial users, he said. And the area is relatively flat.
The state Legislature passed a new law this year allowing cities to apply for an urban growth area expansion specifically for industrial development. McCormick said Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, championed the new law for Kennewick.
That same law, McCormick said, allows the city to apply for an expansion for industrial development that represents about 7 percent of the city's area outside of Benton County's normal five-year cycle.
Normally, the city would have to wait until December 2013 to apply for the expansion to be considered during 2014, he said.
The city can't afford to wait that long to start the process, Young said.
McCormick described the expansion as an interim step. While it will help, the city will likely ask for another urban growth area expansion for industrial development next year, during the normal cycle. There is not a land limit on that application, and it would likely be for area near the current proposed expansion.
Estimates show that the city has a shortage of more than 3,000 acres of vacant industrial land for its 20-year projected growth.
Kennewick's population of 75,160 is expected to grow by about 24,000 people in the next 20 years, McCormick said.
If Benton County commissioners approve the expansion, the city will need to expand services such as water and sewer so that development can happen, McCormick said.
Currently, the property has two access points, and the city would likely extend Center Parkway over I-82 using a bridge to provide a third access, he said. That would be done in partnership with developers.
McCormick said he does not believe the land has been actively farmed for at least several years.
Once the application is submitted to Benton County, it will be reviewed by the county planning department and brought to the county planning commission. The planning commission will hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to Benton County commissioners, who also will hold a public hearing, and then make a decision.