South Richland condo project called 'too dense'

Richland Planning Commission members shook their heads no at a proposed condo development in south Richland on Wednesday, finding it was too dense to fit the surrounding neighborhood.

The commission completed a public hearing it started in September on an amended proposal by TMT Homes NW to rezone 12 acres west of Meadow Hills Drive and Meadowridge Loop from single-family residential to a planned-unit development.

The rezone would have allowed TMT to build 54 condos in 11 buildings in an area surrounded by single-family homes.

The original plan calling for 12 buildings and 60 condos generated a lot of opposition in the neighborhood, with many homeowners claiming such a development would bring down property values and affect their privacy.

More than 60 people attended the September hearing to voice their opposition. About 30 people attended the meeting Wednesday, but were not allowed to offer testimony since public comment took place at the previous meeting.

Despite the reduction in the number of buildings and condos, and a provision to provide more than 150 feet of buffer between the surrounding houses and the condos, commission members on Wednesday said in a 6-0 vote they didn't think the proposal was one they could recommend to the city council.

Commission Chairman Kent Madsen said he didn't philosophically oppose condos there, but thought the proposal submitted was too dense.

"I tend to think something of this sort might be acceptable, but the scale of this ... is what I struggle with more than anything," Madsen said.

Members Debbie Berkowitz, Marianne Boring, Clifford Clark, Mary Jo Coblentz and Stanley Jones concurred.

Member James Utz recused himself from the hearing and the vote because of a conflict. Member Carol Moser was absent.

Staff in the planning department also recommended denying the proposal, but the city council gets the final say and could override the staff and the commission if council members see merit in the proposal.

Also Wednesday:

w The commission in a 7-0 vote recommended the council approve a set of zoning regulations to pave the way for the city to annex nearly 1,900 acres on the south side of Badger Mountain, where a large development is planned that would consist of thousands of homes, parks, schools, retail space and a wine village.

The commission also recommended approval of a change to the city code that would allow alternative development regulations to be applied to master planned areas such as Badger Mountain south, and an ordinance that would allow the owners of the land at Badger Mountain south to use a streamlined environmental review process for projects consistent with the plan developed for the area.

Commission members praised the Badger Mountain south developers for the level of detail in their plans, which have been worked out with the city over several years.

"This is probably one of the best projects I've seen since I've been on the commission and maybe one of the best ones to come along for quite some time," Clark said.

"It really is aimed at being a sustainable development," he said. "I'm also a little bit concerned it may become the new center of the city of Richland if the rest of the city doesn't get it in gear and start improving itself. This is probably going to be the better place in the city to live."

Commission members also said they worried other developers might not be as detailed or straightforward, and said they hope the changes to the city code will allow the city to maintain control over the process for master planned developments.

The city council is scheduled to consider the code changes at its meeting Tuesday.