Kennewick will have a hearing examiner in January, hired under contract, to conduct appeals and do reviews on complicated land use matters.
The city council voted Tuesday to recruit a professional hearing examiner to replace the city's Board of Adjustment and the appeals commission. But the move, which city attorney Lisa Beaton recommended for expediting the appeals process and to reduce liability risk, was not supported by Councilman John Hubbard.
Hubbard said getting rid of the seven-member Board of Adjustment was a step in the wrong direction, away from citizen involvement in government of, for and by the people.
Beaton had been discussing the changeover with the council for months, but last week was the first time it had been presented to the Board of Adjustment, which was at Hubbard's suggestion.
Loren Barthoff, a board member, told the Herald by e-mail following a recent city council meeting he was disappointed by the proposal.
Barthoff said if the city council accepts the logic that only trained hearing examiners should handle appeals, and citizen boards no longer are needed, then "we are in more trouble than I thought in this country."
Barthoff said the council should consider improving the current system and offer training to board members.
Mayor Steve Young commented at Tuesday's meeting that Kennewick should explore the possibility of sharing a hired hearing examiner with Benton County or Richland, an idea that Councilman Don Britain posed earlier.