Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Corridor developer wants time to respond"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, more details on the Hawkins Companies decision to withdraw their application:

Hawkins Companies asks for chance to answer questions raised by residents, governments

The developer of a proposed large retail shopping center on the Pullman-Moscow Highway is asking Whitman County for more time to address environmental concerns raised by residents and local governments.

An attorney for the Hawkins Companies asked Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen to withdraw his determination on its environmental checklist so the company can submit a new, more comprehensive document. If Bordsen agrees, an appeal filed by the city of Moscow will temporarily be rendered moot.

The Boise-based developer submitted its application in January to build a 600,000-square-foot shopping complex just west of the Idaho state line. The design includes space for three large retail stores exceeding 100,000 square feet each, eight smaller retail stores ranging from 20,000-30,000 square feet and eight smaller “pad” areas.

Bordsen approved the developer’s State Environmental Policy Act checklist March 2. The checklist allows local governments to evaluate a development’s potential impact on the surrounding environment. Bordsen’s decision said the proposed shopping center would not have a serious negative effect on the environment, subject to certain conditions involving a traffic study and protection of wetlands.

The city of Moscow appealed Bordsen’s decision, raising questions about the development’s effect on local water supplies and stormwater drainage, as well as the possibility police and fire services will have to respond outside of city limits.

The city of Pullman raised similar concerns in public comments but chose not to file an appeal.

The appeal was set for a hearing before the Whitman County commissioners Monday. But the hearing was postponed indefinitely when Prosecutor Denis Tracy said state law may require the county to combine the appeal hearing with a hearing on the developer’s conditional use permit.

Development is allowed in the Pullman Moscow Highway corridor only by conditional use permit. Each conditional use permit application goes to a public hearing before the county Board of Adjustment. But Washington state law allows only one public hearing on a proposed development.

A new application will start the process over again, including a new public comment period and fresh opportunities for appeal. If Moscow appeals again, it would have to pay the $500 filing fee required by county law. An appellant gets half of the filing fee back if the appeal is successful, said Alan Thompson, assistant county planner. No decision has been made whether Moscow will be refunded any portion of its filing fee if Bordsen’s decision is withdrawn and the process starts again.

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