The Richland City Council on Tuesday night finalized some zoning changes needed to make way for a new subdivision near the Amon Creek Natural Preserve.
The council also approved the subdivision's preliminary plat.
The actions cap months of planning, discussion, negotiation and -- at times -- controversy as the Clearwater Creek proposal worked its way through city government.
Even though it now has a green light to keep moving forward, some controversy remains.
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The council has yet to decide about a future city road through the preserve to the subdivision -- a possibility that's prompted dozens of citizens to write letters and pack city hall during recent public meetings. The council is expected to discuss that matter later this month.
The council's vote Tuesday on the zoning was 5-1, with Mayor Dave Rose against. He has described the residential zone proposed for the subdivision as being out of sync with the area.
The preliminary plat vote was unanimous. Councilman Brad Anderson recused himself from the Clearwater Creek votes because of business dealings with developer Hayden Homes.
After the meeting, Rose noted that most public feedback has centered on the potential road, not on the subdivision itself, which was the subject of Tuesday's votes. He said he appreciated the way all those who have spoken up have handled themselves throughout the process.
The 320-home subdivision is to sit on more than 100 acres south of Claybell Community Park, between Steptoe Street and the Amon preserve. Leslie Road is west of the preserve.
Nathan Machiela, land development manager for Hayden Homes, said Tuesday afternoon that the subdivision is to be done in phases, about 35 lots at a time, with the first lots potentially available by the end of this year. He declined further comment after the meeting.
Clearwater Creek stirred concern in the community when it first was proposed because of potential harm to the Amon preserve. But an agreement between Hayden Homes and the nonprofit Tapteal Greenway helped ease some of that worry by setting up a buffer area.
Clearwater Creek also has 32 acres for open space and about 14 acres for a school. (The subdivision falls within the Kennewick School District, although it's in the city of Richland.)
The Kennewick district has had its eye on property within the subdivision for a future elementary school, although at this point it's unclear whether that will move forward.
District officials have said a connection from Leslie near Rachel Road to the subdivision will be needed to accommodate school traffic and create enough access, and if it's taken out of the city's transportation plan, they'll likely look elsewhere for a future school site.
The connection would be part of a longer city road between Leslie and Steptoe -- a route the city long has identified as an eventual need. It would almost certainly have to cross the preserve.
Many community members have urged the city to drop the idea of building a road through the preserve, citing damage to the unique natural area.
The city council is expected to weigh in on the potential future road when it takes up the city's six-year Transportation Improvement Program in a couple of weeks.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald