Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Hawkins receives conditional use permit"

The Hawkins Companies corridor development rolls ahead, as reported in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Whitman County Board of Adjustment gives unanimous approval to 700,000-square-foot corridor shopping center

The Whitman County Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a conditional use permit request from a development company that wants to build a 700,000-square-foot shopping center just across the border from Idaho.

The board granted the permit to Boise-based Hawkins Companies on Thursday night after reviewing the county’s findings of facts and hearing comments from Hawkins Companies and the city of Moscow.

The permit moves Hawkins one step closer to its goal of building a large-scale retail development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

Hawkins first approached the county about the proposed development in 2005, after the county revised its laws governing development in the corridor. Hawkins then filed a State Environmental Policy Act application, which is designed to limit negative effects on the surrounding area. The county initially approved the project, with stipulations.

Moscow declared its intent to appeal the county’s findings, and Hawkins briefly withdrew its SEPA application.

It resubmitted its SEPA application last fall. The county again approved of the development, but added more conditions.

Requirements for construction will include 26 conditions — 23 more than the county’s original findings.

Hawkins must obtain a wastewater discharge permit, develop a stormwater-control plan and create new wetlands to replace those that would be destroyed by construction at the proposed site.

The majority of the requirements focus on traffic access and flow issues associated with a large retail center. It also requires the installation of pedestrian and cyclist avenues.

Moscow, represented by City Engineer and Public Works Director Les MacDonald, said it is pleased with the steps Hawkins has taken to provide adequately safe entrances and exits to the development. It still is concerned that the development’s proposed water usage could impact a city well Moscow plans to build in 2010 — the same year Hawkins plans to complete the project.

The board decided that conditions required by Hawkins’ SEPA application were stringent enough to meet state standards, and any water issues will be handled by the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board.

Hawkins’ Project Manager Jeff Devoe said the conditional use permit is a huge step for the company. Now, it will focus on the water-right allocation process. Hawkins’ contracted research company has reviewed more than 300 existing water rights in an effort to find the more than 80-acre feet of water it needs to operate.

The Whitman County Water Conservancy Board will meet March 7 to begin review of Hawkins’ proposed water-right transfers.

Devoe declined to speculate on when construction would begin. He said he won’t peg a date until “yellow steel” — construction equipment — breaks ground on the property.

“It’s a long process and we’re just getting started,” Devoe said.

The company must apply for and receive building, wastewater, traffic, stormwater, and lighting permits before construction can begin.

Devoe and other Hawkins officials previously had declined comment on the project.

Throughout the SEPA process, rumors circulated about the company’s efforts to gather water rights and establish its own sewer system in order to fuel additional development.

Devoe said there is no basis for those rumors. Hawkins has promised that its water drainage will not exceed current water levels from its site, and its proposed sewer plant is only equipped to handle its needs.

Devoe also said the water rights the company believes can be transferred to the project will only cover its needs and not those necessary to develop the corridor.

Hawkins is considering purchasing 205 acres for its development, and 110 acres will be used for the proposed development. Devoe would not comment on future plans for the remaining property.

Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen said Hawkins would have to submit a new SEPA application, procure additional water rights and a new conditional use permit before any additional development could occur.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Devoe said. “And we want to be financially and environmentally responsible. That’s always been our goal.”

QUICKREAD

WHAT HAPPENED: The Whitman County Board of Adjustment granted Hawkins Companies a conditional use permit for its proposed retail development on 110 acres next to the Idaho border.

WHAT IT MEANS: Hawkins now can pursue building permits and transfer water rights for its project.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Building permits and water rights must be procured before construction can begin.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: The development would be the largest in the immediate area and could draw people to the Pullman-Moscow area and keep residents from traveling to Lewiston or Spokane to shop. The proposed development also has drawn skepticism from local conservationists and the city of Moscow as being a threat to the area’s groundwater supply.

3 comments:

uiprof said...

An extra 95 acres? Hmmm. Perhaps "Great Value" items will be sold there?

Tom Forbes said...

You read my mind, uiprof.

April E. Coggins said...

I loved Paul Bryan's letter in tonight's Daily News. The "excellent" English professor is now giving lessons in property development to developers who have invested three million dollars in just the SEPA compliance report. Except he doesn't want to do the actual work, he is politely requesting that the Daily News do the research and reporting. The "excellent" professors are so excellent in their fields, they just can't help themselves when they believe that not only can they do their own job, they can do everyone else's job, except better.