A proposed apartment complex in south Richland near Amon Creek Natural Preserve has raised the ire of a homeowner concerned with increased traffic and the development's impact on surrounding wetlands.
Duane Smith of Mukilteo wants to build a 112-unit apartment complex on about 14 acres of land off Center Boulevard.
The property, which he has owned since 1988, is zoned multi-family, which allows for up to eight units per acre. A site plan filed with the city of Richland shows a six-building complex with a serpentine parking lot to the west and wetlands to the east. Native plantings, lawn, infiltration ponds and other features would separate it from a conservation area that borders the wetlands.
Daniel Rutherford, who lives in the nearby Willowbrook development, fears the project could create soil erosion and water runoff into the wetlands, impacting wildlife and the waterways.
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"Disturbing that ground is going to have a major impact on the wetland," said Rutherford, who is rallying neighbors and encouraging them to submit comments to the city.
"Everybody is concerned," Rutherford said. "I had one lady tell me she's thinking about putting her home on the market."
In a letter to Richland officials, Rutherford wrote: "The use of infiltration ponds to collect roadway and parking lot runoff will significantly impact the fragile ecosystem; pollute the waterway impacting the native plants ... as well as fish."
The infiltration ponds are designed to capture storm water and runoff, eventually uniting it with groundwater. Smith plans to use silt fences and hay bales, among other methods, to reduce erosion during construction.
The site plan still needs city approval and a public comment period before the project can move forward. It also must pass a State Environmental Policy Act review. The developer hopes to begin construction in 2015 and finish in 2016.
Richland officials received Rutherford's comments and plan to address them during the environmental review process, said Rick Simon, Richland's planning and development services manager.
"We're trying to determine the environmental impacts," Simon said.
If the review reveals potential significant impacts, Smith would be required to submit an environmental impact statement to the city, Simon said. The city has reached out to the state departments of Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Kennewick Irrigation District for input on the environmental review.
Two wetland areas are in question -- the East Badger Drain and the Amon Wasteway. The East Badger Drain, also known as the West Fork, was created in the 1950s as an artificial irrigation and drainage facility. It drains into the Amon Wasteway.
Because the East Badger Drain is manmade, it's exempt from designation as a critical area and doesn't need a buffer zone between the drain and the apartment complex, KID said. A buffer would be necessary if the wetland was natural.
"All of the wetlands in the vicinity, including those in the park and 'preserve' are intentional, artificially created irrigation features," KID Planning Manager Seth Defoe wrote to city officials regarding the Smith project. "None of them are natural in the scientific or legal sense."
Rutherford also is concerned with increased traffic the proposed complex would bring to surrounding neighborhoods. The apartments would create an estimated 744 additional daily trips in and out.
"An apartment complex of this size, with this many units -- it doesn't fit with the area," Rutherford said.
Single-family homes surround the proposed development.
"The density is completely out of character with the surrounding area and in extremely close proximity to high-end, single-family homes," Rutherford wrote to the city.
Smith will build a "wide perimeter landscape buffer" between the apartment complex and the surrounding single-family homes, according to the site plan. Pine, aspen, linden, oak and cedar trees would dot the landscape.
"This provides substantial visual breaks, reducing the bulk of the proposed 30- to 40-foot tall facades," the plan said.
Smith could not be reached for comment.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com