Kennewick council denies Thompson Hill proposal

For the second time in three years, the Kennewick City Council rejected developer Jose Chavallo's bid to build a hotel, wine tasting room and spa on Thompson Hill in south Kennewick.

The council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to adopt a city planning commission recommendation to deny changing the land use for Chavallo's 20 acres from low-density residential and open space to commercial.

Chavallo has tried since 2009 to win council favor to build a boutique hotel complex, fine dining restaurant, meeting/ballrooms facility, day spa, wine tasting shops, and small resort related retail shop areas.

The vote came after an hour of testimony during a public hearing attended by about 40 people.

Councilmen Bob Olson and John Hubbard sided with Chavallo.

"We spend countless dollars trying to attract business. Now we have someone in our town (willing to invest) and we're telling him to go away," said Olson, who voted for Chavallo's request two years ago.

More than a dozen people testified against amending the comprehensive plan to allow commercial development on Thompson Hill. Many of them lived in Panoramic Heights, just east of Chavallo's land. They objected to loss of open space, and likely increases in traffic, noise and lights that could affect property values.

But Hubbard said, "I doubt many people in Panoramic Heights would even see it."

It was the third year in a row Chavallo asked for an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan that would allow him to propose his project.

The council voted against it in 2009, deferred it in 2010 and turned in down again this year.

City planning staff and the planning commission consistently have recommended denying the request.

Chavallo offered no comment after hearing the roll call vote.

He had stated previously that his "unique piece of property" could become "a crown jewel" for Kennewick.

But Doug Brown, president of the Panoramic Heights Homeowners Association, said what Chavallo proposed for Thompson Hill would "make our neighborhood miserable." He called the proposed amendment spot zoning.

Ron Mabry of Panoramic Heights said, "If this happens, people won't see Thompson Hill, they'll see California Hotel."

Those who showed up to protest or support Chavallo's request for commercial land use designation on the property appeared to be equal in numbers.

Jeff Adrian, a commercial real estate representative from West Richland, told the council Chavallo's plans would be positive for the city.

Gerald Kenner of Pasco said the city council should approve Chavallo's request because it could help employment. "We can sure use the work here," he said.

City attorney Lisa Beaton said Chavallo always can try again next year.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com