A temporary farm near Interstate 182 could secure water rights for Pasco.
Tom Kidwell of Pasco is asking for a special permit to open a farm on 32 acres of land owned by the Department of Natural Resources at Road 76 and Burden Boulevard.
Kidwell said he likely would grow alfalfa on the property if the permit is approved. He already grows alfalfa on the department-owned property on the other side of I-182 and sells it to dairies.
David McDonald, Pasco city planner, said his staff is suggesting a temporary special permit because the city hopes to encourage urban development there. If approved, the three-year permit could be renewed until 2020.
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The city has issued temporary special permits for agricultural uses before, McDonald said. Kidwell has a similar permit for the other portion of department land.
The I-182 area used to be mostly farms, McDonald said. And as the area has been developed, homes have been built next to farms.
Eventually, farms within the city will be developed, McDonald said.
Farming the property also would protect the water rights associated with the property or they may not exist in the future, McDonald said.
"The only way to do that is to farm it," he said.
When the land is developed, city code requires those water rights to be transferred to the city.
Farming will preserve the water rights, which is important because the state isn't issuing more, Kidwell said.
Kidwell said he will control dust when creating the fields, and he doesn't anticipate any impacts on the nearby homes.
Irrigation equipment will be installed but there won't be any buildings.
City staff is suggesting the permit require a complaint monitoring plan for the operation.
So far, the city has not received any negative comments about the special permit proposal, McDonald said.
The Pasco Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. today at Pasco City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave.