Kennewick council approves waterfront redevelopment plan

Larry Peterson, planning director for the Port of Kennewick, talks to the Kennewick City Council about the Bridge-to-Bridge plan.
Larry Peterson, planning director for the Port of Kennewick, talks to the Kennewick City Council about the Bridge-to-Bridge plan. Tri-City Herald

A plan to revitalize Kennewick’s waterfront area finally got city council approval Tuesday evening.

The Bridge-to-Bridge, River-to-Rail plan was originally created in 2003 and approved by the city’s planning commission in 2010, but doused by council in 2011.

But the 62-page plan, created by Beckwith Associates of Bellevue, has gone through an extensive public review, including 15 meetings by a task force and 12 open houses, officials said.

The plan has now been simplified to have one type of mixed-use zoning instead of three. It requires at least 20 percent of both residential and commercial zoning in mixed-use areas. It takes out requirements for parking garages.

Also gone is a plan to build a public market and tourist train at land the city formerly leased from BNSF Railway Co. Greg McCormick, the city’s planning director, said those were removed because the city no longer leases the space, but it could bring the ideas back in the future.

Tuesday’s approval only agrees to the plan. Zoning changes will be voted on at a later date, possibly in early 2016. But the plan does include language allowing property owners who don’t comply with the area zoning to be grandfathered in, provided the use of the building doesn’t change for more than six months.

In 2011, the Port of Kennewick opposed the plan because of the use of parking garages, which it felt the economics of the project wouldn’t support, said Larry Peterson, the port’s planning director. But now it supports the plan, which could take 10 to 30 years to complete.

The port is already developing a boutique wine village on six acres just north of Columbia Drive in the heart of the Bridge-to-Bridge area.

David Spaulding of Kennewick told the council that the Bridge-to-Bridge plan was a primary reason he wanted to put his business downtown.

“As more people are down there, we’ll see it more safe, we’ll see it grow, and we’ll see the property values continue to increase,” he said.

The project will be implemented in the area between the blue and cable bridges in increments, depending on demand, McCormick said after the meeting. Though it could develop more quickly if someone buys a large property, like 30 acres available near the blue bridge.

“It incrementally gets implemented through each project that comes through the council,” he said.

The measure passed 7-0, though some council members were concerned about what could happen to existing businesses.

Councilman John Trumbo was hopeful that the developments would attract residents other than the people who frequent the bars in the area.

“I’d like to raise the bar a little bit,” he said.

Also Tuesday, residents encouraged the council to do something about outdoor marijuana grows in residential areas.

“As soon as we open the front or back door, it hits us in the face,” Nancy Lynch said of smells from her neighbors’ plants.

They were particularly worried after shots were fired during a break-in last week at a backyard marijuana grow in Pasco.

“It’s out there in the open,” Lynch’s husband, Greg Reger, said. “People can jump fences and steal it, and then you’ve got people trying to protect it.”

The council plans to look at changes, made possible by a recent adjustment to state law, at next week’s workshop meeting, City Attorney Lisa Beaton said. It would allow the city to ban outdoor medical marijuana grows that can be seen or smelled from neighboring property.

Councilman Bob Parks plans to meet with another man who asked council Tuesday to allow him to open a recreational marijuana store, which are now banned in the city. Parks said legal marijuana sales could prevent people growing themselves.

“It’s not going away anytime soon,” he said. “I’d be curious to see what he has planned.”

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom