Pasco planners receptive to Bahama Bay water park

PASCO — The special permit for a proposed Pasco water park called Bahama Bay likely will be passed onto the Pasco City Council with a few conditions.

The Pasco Planning Commission asked city staff Thursday to draft conditions for the special permit requested by Jim Hale, of Orlando, Fla., for the 27-acre project proposed for Sandifur Parkway.

Conditions included a traffic study addressing parking lot concerns, a security fence, meeting Interstate 182 landscaping standards and a two-year expiration date on the special permit.

Hale, project director for Dynamic Waters, said the water park would be built in four phases: the actual water park followed by a family fun center and additional water features in the second phase, a rapid river and water rocket launchers in the third phase and a hotel in the final phase.

“We want to become an iconic fixture,” he said.

Hale said the park would close at 6 p.m. daily, and possibly be open for private parties to rent until 10 p.m.

Several who spoke during the public hearing attended by about 45 people worried the closing time would conflict with the area’s rush hour. Hale said he was amenable to changing the time if needed.

Some questioned the project’s traffic impact and wondered if the Tri-Cities could support both Bahama Bay and Shark Reef Water Park, which Mike Hillman of Kennewick and Dave Schlotthauer of Pasco plan to open in Kennewick in the summer of 2011.

Jim Noyce of Pasco, who lives near Sandifur Parkway, said he would like a traffic signal added on Sandifur on Midland Lane or Road 92 because he is concerned about how the additional traffic would affect left turns onto Sandifur.

He also suggested the commission require a business plan.

Bryan Woodruff of Richland said the traffic wouldn’t be like it is near TRAC because people wouldn’t come all at once.

Bahama Bay could become a destination spot, he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

The property is west of Broadmoor Square and north of Interstate 182, and has adequate water and sewer infrastructure, said David McDonald, city planner. Dynamic Waters would be required to pay hook-up fees to both, along with an estimated $90,000 traffic impact fee that likely would pay for traffic lights in the area.

Marijo Bowe, a real estate agent with Kennewick’s Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Associate Brokers, said the water park is an opportunity for the area’s annual 300 days of sun to draw people to the Tri-Cities.

Bowe added the city should look at using tax revenue from the water park to build a much-needed aquatic center with year-round access. Tere Thornhill, president of Terence L. Thornhill Architect on Sandifur Parkway, said the list of staff recommendations spoke to his concerns, mostly with requiring a traffic study.

He also suggested an acoustic analysis. He wasn’t sure sound screening walls would be necessary, since the main park noise would be children, not machinery.

The commission didn’t add the walls or an acoustic study to the list of conditions.

Rick White, city community and economic development director, said the interstate would be noisier than the water park.

Joe Cruz, planning commission member, said he was for the water park, and that Sandifur was the right location for it.

The city should add a condition for the taller, noise-inspiring rides to be located on the south side of the property, near the interstate, he said.

Hale agreed to switch the tallest 60-foot slide planned for the north side of the property for a shorter one initially placed near the interstate.

Planning Commission Chair Todd Samuel asked if Dynamic Waters had experience running water parks.

Hale said no, but added that he would hire someone experienced to operate it.

The commission will deliberate and decide what to recommend to the Pasco City Council at its Feb. 18 meeting. The council makes the final decision on the permit.

-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com