The Kennewick City Council has told city staff to draft new rules for hillside development based on recommendations initially rejected by the city’s planning commission.
Council members said Tuesday they want to see the proposed ordinances during a future regular meeting as soon as possible.
They rejected the idea of having the planning commission review the drafts before the council makes a decision.
“They had a shot at it,” council member Paul Parish said.
The rules, which city staff recommended to the planning commission in March, related to retaining walls, man-made slopes and building heights, among other matters.
Planning officials said most developers are already following the recommendations, but there is nothing in city code to prevent large deviations from those suggestions and there are some instances of developers deviating from guidelines.
The planning commission rejected staff’s findings, saying standards aren’t needed as builders only want to build aesthetically pleasing structures that sell. Developers had also said the staff recommendations would increase their costs, which could hamper the city’s growth.
The commission did recommend the council adopt some guidelines from the past Southridge plan. That would have prevented building on hillsides with a 25 percent or higher grade, a much stricter standard than the city’s current limit at 40 percent grade or higher.
City council members were disappointed that the planning commission rejected the staff-suggested rules. Bob Parks and Gregory Jones went so far as to say the commission had “punted the ball” on the issue.
The recommendations made Tuesday from city planners to the council were virtually unchanged from what was presented before, and council members did not raise any concerns.
“I think all of this sounds reasonable,” said council member John Trumbo.
However, Parks noted that the city will also need to follow the rules, saying he’s disappointed at a particularly tall retaining wall built along Steptoe Street as part of a city project.
“We should lead by example,” he said.