Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"County waits for feedback on corridor development"

Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen said the county hasn’t received any comments on its decision to approve Hawkins Companies’ proposed 200-acre development on the Pullman-Moscow Highway, just across the Idaho border.

A week remains before the comment period ends.

This is Hawkins Companies’ second go-round with the county’s approval process.

Whitman County officials green-lighted the project Dec. 13 provided Hawkins Companies addresses traffic flow and environmental issues. The county gave Hawkins the same determination as it did last spring, but with 26 provisions to meet instead of three.

Bordsen said Hawkins Companies representatives had not presented the county with studies concerning traffic and wastewater when the first determination was made.

The city of Moscow appealed the county’s previous decision, which led Hawkins to withdraw its application until it completed additional studies.

Moscow still is deciding how it should comment on Whitman County’s latest decision.

Moscow City Supervisor Gary Riedner said city staff and elected officials have reviewed Whitman County’s findings. Some of the issues Moscow originally appealed appear to be cleared up, but he said there still are a few plans the city wants to look into concerning environmental impacts.

“Right now it’s all up in the air,” Riedner said. “Hopefully, in the next couple of days we should have a decision on whether or not to take any action.”

Police and fire response was one of Moscow’s primary concerns with the proposed shopping center. Because of its proximity to the site, Moscow attested that its emergency-response system would handle the brunt of emergency incidents at the proposed shopping center.

Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch said he hasn’t heard anything from the public concerning the proposed development.

Although Moscow has the right to file an appeal in court, Partch hopes the county and city can address their concerns in a face-to-face setting.

He said the county has started planning for the needs of the corridor between Pullman and Moscow.

Commissioners decided to fund an additional sheriff’s deputy position specifically to address the growing need for patrol in the corridor.

“We plan to ramp up services in that area as it grows,” Partch said. “We have also started to talk with Fire District 12 to start preliminary plans.”

Partch said it’s too early for people to worry about how to service the corridor when it is fully developed.

“We are in touch with the entities involved to prepare,” he said. “However, it would be premature to provide services that aren’t needed right now.”

Paul Kimmell, a Latah County Commissioner and director of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, said he’s heard both interest and concern over the proposed development.

He said a lot of people are concerned that the shopping center will pull tax dollars from Moscow and Latah County into Washington. Kimmell said he would like to see the development on the Idaho side of the border, but having it closer to Moscow is better than having it farther away.

“I would argue that Idaho is better to do business in,” Kimmell said. “However, if you get above 30,000 feet, I have to say it’s good for the Palouse as a whole.”

Besides the state-required standards for building, Hawkins Companies has submitted 10 additional plans to clarify its goals for the site.

“Hawkins has really stepped up,” said Mark Storey, Whitman County Public Works director. “They have met a high standard and provided top-notch information.”

The county’s determination on the proposed shopping center does not clear the way for Hawkins to begin development. Hawkins must first show the county it has adequate water rights to support the project and must also obtain a conditional use permit.

Zoning in the Pullman-Moscow corridor allows shopping centers as long as a conditional use permit is approved.

Bordsen said a hearing date has not been set to determine whether Hawkins Companies will be granted a conditional use permit.

Residents have until Dec. 28 to comment on the development. Comments can be mailed to the Whitman County Planning Department, 310 N. Main St., Colfax, WA 99111, or faxed to (509) 397-6210.
Don't worry guys, I expect you'll be getting comments from Citizen Hosick, Mark Solomon, and an appeal from the City of Moscow very shortly.

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