Community members weigh in on Bridge to Bridge proposal

Simplified zoning. Expanded beautification. And on-street parking.

Those are among the changes to Kennewick’s proposal to revitalize the area between the blue and cable bridges and between the Columbia River and downtown that received mixed reviews at Monday night’s open house.

City officials said some of the changes were the result of input from community members and business owners and conversations with other agencies, such as the Port of Kennewick, working to enhance the area.

But some in the crowd of more than 50 still had questions and concerns about the city’s efforts, from thinking the proposal isn’t enough to aspects that could cause additional problems to wondering how the city would pay for it all.

City officials first introduced the Bridge to Bridge, River to Railroad plan in 2009 to improve the commercial and residential areas that flank Columbia Drive.

It called for improvements such as more recreational trails, tree plantings, better signs and wider sidewalks and adjusted zoning to allow for more mixed commercial and residential development.

The Kennewick City Council halted the plan in 2011 to make adjustments and work with the port, which was beginning efforts to create a wine village development along part of Columbia Drive.

The refreshed proposal, now available on the city’s website, would have one type of mixed-use zoning instead of three, requiring at least 20 percent residential space with commercial development. And where all development would have needed structured parking, such as a parking garage, to meet traffic needs, Greg McCormick, the city’s planning director, said that would at least be relaxed to allow some on-street parking.

Businesses that don’t fit the proposal’s zoning would be grandfathered in, and those businesses would be able to expand and be sold to new owners, McCormick said. And rather than create new design standards for the area, the city will rely on standards already on the books with planners.

“We really don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Buildings would have no height limit, but owners would need parking to meet their structural demands, which will limit particularly large projects.

Gus Kitson, owner of KIE Supply on Columbia Drive, was concerned about a proposal to eliminate the center turn lane on Columbia Drive and replace it with landscaping. He said the turn lane has done a lot in recent years to minimize accidents.

“Our police chief would have to station an officer and a wrecker down there,” Kitson said.

Eleanor Owen, who owns several pieces of property on Everest Street next to the Columbia River levee, said she has followed the proposal for years, and it looks beautiful but falls short of the changes she wants for the levee, such as lowering it to make it easier to see the river.

“I just look at that levee and see so many possibilities,” she said.

The cost of the project isn’t known, McCormick said. “This isn’t meant to be a capital facilities plan,” he said. “It doesn’t have that level of detail.”

The city council isn’t expected to begin reviewing the proposal until after this summer, city officials said, with the goal of it being adopted this winter.

To give your feedback, call Anthony Muai at 509-585-4386 or email him at anthony.muai@ci.kennewick.wa.us.