Benton County commissioners gave final approval Tuesday to a request from Kennewick officials to add 1,263 acres to the city's urban growth area for industrial development.
The acreage is south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395. The land is designated for agriculture, although it isn't irrigated and isn't actively farmed.
It is ideal for industrial development because it's flat and near transportation routes, proponents say. The city has budgeted money for extending utility infrastructure, and the state has committed $1.5 million for road improvements and storm water work.
The move paves the way for the city to annex the land in the future. Officials hope to market it to a range of companies, from Department of Energy contractors to telecom and data providers, electrical storage centers, medical research companies, and manufacturing, warehousing and regional distribution businesses.
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"I think this was a very good decision today. We are very pleased with the outcome," said Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem Don Britain.
"This is just one step in the process (of seeing the property developed)," Britain said, adding that development of the land "is going to be a benefit to the entire Tri-City area" and bring hundreds of family-wage jobs.
Carl Adrian, president and chief executive officer of the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC, described the project as "an important step for economic development in Benton County."
"It's a great addition to the industrial inventory that exists, and it's going to create some areas that are unique" and "(give) us the opportunity to attract different kinds of companies," Adrian said.
The unanimous action by the county commissioners was no surprise. They gave their OK to the urban growth expansion last month, hailing it as a promising economic boost for the region.
They were set to approve written findings and conclusions reflecting that decision during a meeting in late January, but held off until Tuesday at the request of Kennewick officials.
The city wanted to enter some additional information into the record to address questions about the urban growth expansion raised by the state Department of Commerce. The information included an analysis of land in the Tri-City area of the county available for industrial development, and a letter from a developer outlining the vision for the property.
The decision can be appealed to the state Growth Management Hearings Board. The window is 60 days from the time the decision is published, which should be within about a week.
Several people spoke at a county commissioners' meeting in January about the urban growth request, most expressing support.
The statewide land-use advocacy group Futurewise has voiced opposition, arguing the city doesn't need the land for future growth, the expansion would lead to the unnecessary loss of farmland, and the proposal is inconsistent with state growth management law and the county comprehensive plan.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald