Whitman officials confident they have addressed all of Moscow’s concerns about corridor development.
Whitman County officials have determined none of the comments they received regarding a proposed 600,000-square-foot retail development just west of the Idaho border successfully argued a significant, negative environmental effect.
The county sent its response to comments presented by the city of Moscow and Latah County resident Mark Solomon today.
According to the county’s report, the potential negative effects from Hawkins Companies’ proposed development have been addressed through the State Environmental Policy Act.
Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy said the county attempted to address all the concerns presented by Moscow and Solomon, even though no law exists requiring the county to discuss its development with Moscow
Tracy and Bordsen said there is no legal precedent concerning an out-of-state entity commenting on another state’s SEPA findings.
Whitman County is trying to be a good neighbor, Tracy said, adding that Moscow’s comments were considered because of its proximity to Whitman County and because it is a potentially affected entity. The county also thought a judge may consider Moscow legally impacted if it ever went to court over the matter.
The comments from the city and Solomon focused on the potential environmental effects the proposed shopping center would have on wetlands, stormwater, groundwater, traffic and law enforcement and the legal authority to build an urban-style retail center away from the county’s core population.
Moscow wants Hawkins Companies to conduct a study that forecasts traffic effects to the year 2030. The county replied that the facility will be full by 2010 and the traffic effects of other development are not the responsibility of Hawkins Companies.
The county also indicated that if an existing .46-acre drainage ditch is determined to be a wetland, Hawkins Companies will follow state mandates to mitigate the effect.
Hawkins Companies also will have to implement a stormwater management system consistent with state standards.
According to the report, the Washington State Department of Ecology will review the potential impacts on the area’s ground water supply.
The county’s report indicates that it is not violating any urban growth laws and that Moscow has tried to make its own laws apply to the proposed development.
Moscow has argued that the proposed development does not fit with the city’s efforts to implement smart growth principles. According to the report, the city’s efforts to enforce its ideals on another entity undermines the county’s authority over development within its borders.
“Moscow is our very close neighbor,” Tracy said. “We have taken extensive steps to take their concerns into consideration. If they have any concerns that are not part of the SEPA review the county hopes Moscow will pick up the phone and we can talk about their concerns.”
By law, Moscow and Solomon have two weeks to appeal the county’s response. The board of adjustment will hear any appeals at the same time it reviews Hawkins’ request for a conditional use permit. The conditional use permit hearing date has not been set.