Kennewick mulls plan to preserve open space

Kennewick city officials like the idea of regional planning for open space, but feel that making room for it in a growing, developing community will be a challenge.

Council members and city staff are taking a cautious look at a proposed Rivers to Ridges Open Space Network plan prepared by a citizen group.

"The efforts are commendable, and I believe the result will be very good," said City Manager Bob Hammond at a recent council workshop.

The Rivers to Ridges group has produced a 106-page draft plan that was more than two years in the making. Hammond first told the council about it last month and now wants to help council members work through the proposal to identify its good parts and trouble spots.

While it emphasizes the value of open space and the need for a coordinated approach involving public and private entities, Hammond noted that broad issues involving comprehensive planning from a regional perspective and how the entities would cooperate on those broad issues are not included in the plan.

For example:

w The plan calls for balancing open space with development, but doesn't say how.

w And while there would be public meetings and surveys, Hammond said those community input processes need to meet legal requirements for public hearings if public agencies are involved.

w And there's the financial question of how to pay for open space, he noted.

City officials from throughout the Tri-Cities have been invited to the planning discussions and asked to participate in a jurisdictional council. Richland and Kennewick are members, with Sharon Brown, Kennewick mayor pro tem, and staff planner Anthony Muai attending the planning meetings.

Brown said she wants the city to stay involved, and Councilman Paul Parish agreed.

But Hammond said Kennewick's role needs to be limited.

"We need to be clear about what is being involved is or isn't," he said.

If the public perceives Kennewick as supporting or endorsing the plan, whatever it turns out to be, it could affect the council's goals for development.

"You will have full access (to the rivers to ridges group) for planning purposes, but we want to be careful about endorsement of the plan or any part of the plan," he cautioned.

"Other cities are actively involved. I don't want the perception that Kennewick is pulling out," Brown said.

"So as I understand this, (Brown) will continue to attend the jurisdictional council meetings and (Muai) will be at the meetings, but we will not be part of voting for this?" asked Mayor Steve Young.

"Yes. It's important to say we were not part of the group, for legal ramification," Hammond advised.

"Keeping the separation allows you to have the flexibility to pick and choose. We want to have input only, not be a partner," he said.

More workshops will be held to discuss the plan, Hammond said, and he will present a draft letter to the council in July that defines Kennewick's role in the rivers to ridges group.

A copy of the rivers to ridges proposal is available on the city's website, www. kennewick.wa.us. Follow the links to council meetings, then click on council packet archives. Select the June 15, 2010, packet.