Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"County not rushing plans for corridor developer"

And speaking of the evil Hawkins Companies' "mega-sprawl" development that has Moscow City Council members fiddling like Nero, what has been happening on that front lately? Today's Daily News brings us up to date:
Whitman County isn’t hurrying to push the Hawkins Companies to finish its environmental checklist. The county wants to make sure it is done correctly.

It’s been almost two months since Hawkins submitted additional studies concerning environmental and traffic impacts that could result from its proposed 745,000-square-foot shopping center near the state line. However, Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen said Hawkins controls the timetable for when he makes a decision on the project.

“It’s like a chess clock,” Bordsen said. “Whenever we ask for additional information, the clock stops.

“We are not obligated to rush them.”

Once Hawkins finishes submitting its information, Bordsen will have 15 days to make a decision.

Hawkins Companies originally submitted an application to Whitman County in January to build a shopping complex along the Pullman-Moscow Highway just west of the state line. The proposed development is about twice the size of the Palouse Mall in Moscow.

Bordsen approved Hawkins Companies’ initial State Environmental Policy Act checklist with conditions related to traffic and environmental impacts.

The city of Moscow appealed Bordsen’s decision, claiming the Hawkins development would have an adverse effect on the environment, and the city’s police and fire departments could end up responding to emergencies at the center without reaping any of the tax revenue.

Based on the public friction, Hawkins asked Bordsen to hold its application until it could provide additional information in an attempt to ease concerns over traffic and the environment.

Normally, traffic isn’t considered a negative environmental impact in the SEPA checklist, and the applicant would not submit the study until the public hearing for the conditional use permit. But Moscow disagreed with Hawkins, which decided to submit the plan early and not fight the city’s appeal in an effort to move ahead.

The traffic study, done by Kittelson and Associates Inc., recommends two access points along Highway 270. The main entrance would be 2,600 feet east of Airport Road across from the grain silos. The other would be next to Crossroads Nursery and Garden Gifts, 1,000 feet east of Airport Road. There is also an access point 500 feet north of the intersection of Airport Road and 270.

The study estimates the shopping complex would bring in about 22,000 new round trips daily. To allow fluid traffic flow and increase safety, the plan calls for a stoplight, turnouts, road widening, and a roundabout in the interior of the center.

Before Bordsen reviews Hawkins’ findings, he’s waiting for approval from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We could potentially move ahead now,” Bordsen said. “But we want the other agencies to approve their plans, so we don’t have to redo anything.”

Greg Figg, transportation planner with the WSDOT, said no problems have popped up yet. The department is waiting for additional information concerning traffic safety for the second entrance before it makes a recommendation.

The WSDOT recommendations will be part of the packet presented for public comment and be included in the public hearing for Hawkins Companies’ conditional use permit.

Hawkins also submitted plans to answer Moscow’s concerns over wastewater and storm water along with the traffic study.

Hawkins plans to install a wastewater treatment plant. It will meet all regulations and use some of the water for irrigation.

For storm water, Hawkins plans to build 208 grass filter areas. Since the new studies, it also plans to provide more filtration and treatment for water running through oil and other pollutants.

“I expect we will be able to make a good decision by the end of the month,” Bordsen said. “They will probably have all the information approved by the DOT soon, and then I will have to get cracking.”
It's all well and good that everyone is taking their time to "get it right," considering traffic, etc., etc, but it won't matter. Whitman County should learn a lesson from Pullman. Our city public works department took a year to approve the Wal-Mart site plan and SEPA checklist and PARD is still appealing. The Moscow City Council will do the same. They might as well approve the project and let the long and drawn out appealing process begin. It's a war of attrition.


April E. Coggins said...

I agree with you that Moscow will appeal no matter how much Hawkins and Whitman County tries to appease them. Moscow's first appeal included "odor" concerns, as if Lowes might somehow compete with their own pungent sewage treatment plant directly across the road. There will be no appeasement for the current council. I do wonder how Moscow residents and tax payers feel about spending thousands of dollars to try to stop development in another jurisdiction. It seems to me that a better and more healthy approach would be to spend the money on making Moscow more economically competive. If they truely believe that good economic policy is small business development, why don't they use the money to promote that ideal? If big box stores are detrimental, why don't they allow us to self destruct on our accord? What are they afraid of?

Ray Lindquist said...

Well said April, yes indeed very well.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

It is the whole idea of government/Liberals wanting to protect the people from themselves. Completely deranged theory.