Pathway removal causes upheaval

A controversy over a pathway in the Horn Rapids community may have the Richland City Council rethinking the way it enforces master plans for development.

At issue is a one-time paved path between two homes on Stonecreek Drive that led to the Horn Rapids Golf Course.

The path existed for about four or five years and was used by nearby residents to drive golf carts or walk onto the golf course, but builder Varsity Development LLC ripped out the pavement in May when a house was built on one of the lots, leaving behind a gash in the desert between the two homes.

The problem is the city has an irrigation and pathway easement where the path used to be, and Varsity didn't get permission from the city before removing the path.

The removal was OK with the developer, homeowners' association and the golf course manager, who said in a Sept. 15 letter he didn't want the path rebuilt because it would invite the public to trespass on private golf course property, and put them in danger of being hit by golf balls while walking on the fairway.

But a group of homeowners said they want the path restored and pleaded with the city at a public hearing Tuesday to enforce the master plan for the housing development.

Dave Sparks, who lives on Riverbend Drive, said he was upset the builder didn't go through the proper process to remove the path.

"There is pretty much a standard way of going about things," Sparks said. "It is totally uncalled for how that happened. ... I don't like the way that happened. I really don't."

Christine Parks, who owns the new home adjacent to the path, said the builder didn't notify her before tearing out the path, and that she's been caught up in a nightmare ever since.

"We were completely unaware," she said. "We didn't request it."

Nonetheless, Parks said she doesn't want the path rebuilt because she's concerned about the safety of having people driving golf carts a mere four feet from her house.

The original master plan, which dates back to the early 1990s, called for a network of trails and connecting paths -- including the one at issue.

But the development has changed hands through the years and the plan hasn't always been followed to the letter.

That led the council to wonder what kind of legal issues the city might face if it decided to start enforcing the plan now.

Councilman Bob Thompson said the city has to find some way to find a balanced solution, but that the council didn't have enough information to do that Tuesday.

"I don't think we can come up with an answer that gives everybody justice," Thompson said.

The council deferred the discussion to a future workshop.

w Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com