PROSSER — The fate of a proposed family friendly, upscale RV park and petting zoo near Cottonwood Elementary School in Badger Canyon could be decided tonight at a meeting in Prosser.
David and Charlotte Schlotfeldt of Richland had hoped the 182-space park on 25 acres just off the Badger Road exit of Interstate 82 would be open by spring 2012.
But soon after their proposal was announced in January, dozens of residents in Cottonwood Springs declared their opposition.
Dozens showed up at an April 7 Benton County Board of Adjustment hearing on a special use permit for the project. The session ran so long that the board continued it to 7 p.m. tonight at the Planning Annex, 1002 Dudley Ave., in Prosser.
Twenty-four people testified last month, with seven in favor of the park project. A petition with signatures from 106 opponents also was presented at the meeting.
Residents are concerned that fire pits at the RV park could disrupt air quality; that campers might dump chemically laden waste that could pollute groundwater; that RV generators, motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles would be noisy; that lights would spoil the evening serenity for area homeowners and that existing roads are ill-suited for big RVs.
Opponents also claim their property values might drop and the added transitory population associated with some RV parks could raises the risk of human-caused fires and potential for endangering school children.
The planning department received dozens of emails, mostly opposing the project, but some favoring it.
"The problem with an RV park is that no criminal backgrounds are conducted on the occupants," said Jason Lawrence, a Cottonwood Springs resident. "This is an attraction for predators that may be attracted to being near an elementary school."
Homeowner Amanda Parker said, "This would definitely impact property values. ... I personally would have chosen not to buy in this neighborhood if I knew an RV park would be built."
Sharon Harrell said, "I would not appreciate smoke blowing at my house from one fire, let alone 182 fire pits."
Other residents think the project has merits.
Todd Rowell of Kennewick wrote, "I would suggest to everyone to consider the success of the Horn Rapids RV Resort in Richland. It is right across the street from the Horn Rapids development which is unquestionably one of the nicest developments in the Tri-Cities."
And Jeff Kuger, who lives in the neighborhood, called the sex offender concerns "absurd."
"A sex offender is unlikely to own an RV of the economic nature necessary to not draw undue attention .... It is more likely that a neighbor would be a potential predator," he wrote.
Dave Schlotfeldt, who owns Universal Home Builders, testified that he intends to build a high quality resort, and has been building custom homes in the Tri-Cities for 10 years.
He said the site along I-82 was the best in the Tri-Cities for an RV park to capture overnight traffic between Western Washington and Idaho, Oregon and Utah.
"We are in the heart of the vineyards, have major retail shopping and are becoming a medical hub," he said in his presentation.
Schlotfeldt emphasized the amenities that will be included, such as a splash park, a swimming pool and large grassy areas suitable for picnics and volleyball, and other courts for basketball and tennis. He said there will be three community fire pits, and a tent camping area.
Each site will have a shade tree, shrubs, patio, picnic table and charcoal barbecue grill, and the zoo will feature only child- friendly animals, such as a miniature pony and goat, lamb or wallaroo.
Schlotfeldt said the park will be a family managed business and his permanent personal home will be built there.
The RV park will serve seasonal guests and those who want to stay up to 120 days, which is the limit county staff is recommending.
That limit would cut potential revenue and make it more difficult to be competitive in the RV park market, Schlotfeldt told the board.
He said the limit should be one year out of a 14-month period, which is what the city of Richland allows for the Horn Rapids park.
He also noted that the Horn Rapids RV park has an average of 16 sites per acre, while the Cottonwood RV park is planned for seven sites per acre.