Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Whitman County gives nod to car dealer"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Toyota granted conditional use permit for site along highway

No one showed up Thursday to protest James Toyota’s plan to relocate its dealership to the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

The Whitman County Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the business’ conditional use permit, provided the dealership obtains the necessary building permits and fulfills other requirements.

The proposed lot would cover 5 acres with 385 parking spaces and have a 27,000-square-foot building to hold sales offices, showrooms and maintenance garages.

Norm Druffel of Pullman was the only attendant who spoke voluntarily. He represented himself and several other residents who wanted to ensure access to their property along the proposed development would not be destroyed.

County staff told him that property access would not be affected.

The city of Moscow was the only entity to file comments with the county planning department.

Moscow questioned whether the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws conflicted with the proposed development

Assistant County Planner Alan Thomson said the overall goal in the Pullman-Moscow corridor focuses on transportation enhancement and economic development. He said zoning laws are not solely designed to maintain aesthetic beauty and enhance the environmental characteristics, as suggested in a letter from the city of Moscow. Thomson said aesthetic beauty and environmental enhancement are part of the plans, but not the only goal.

Moscow is concerned that if the property is built and 10 acres are paved, it would violate the county’s law that requires 25 percent of a development’s property to remain open and would threaten wetlands surrounding Paradise Creek.

Thomson said the development will use less than 50 percent of its 13-acre parcel and meets requirements to keep development away from the required buffer zones surrounding the creek.

To protect the corridor and its surrounding environment, developments with potentially large environmental impacts are required to complete a State Environmental Policy Act checklist.

Car dealerships are permitted uses in the corridor, although completion of a SEPA checklist is required so the developer can mitigate potential problems to the environment if threats arise.

The county determined that the development did not pose any threats under its SEPA checklist.

Moscow also had concerns over endangered plants in the area, as well as possible traffic interruption and danger to people using the Chipman Trail and the Pullman-Moscow Highway.

Thomson said no evidence has been presented to county, state or federal authorities suggesting the existence of any endangered plant life in the area. Also, the Washington State Department of Transportation did not raise any questions to the potential traffic impacts from the dealership.

Water use also was among Moscow’s concerns, but James Toyota does not have to secure a water right for its planned development because the state does not require a water right for developments that use 5,000 gallons of water or less per day.

Jeff Hill, general manager of James Toyota, said it is too early to forecast a construction date. James Toyota must still obtain building permits, devise landscape plans, submit septic and sewage plans to the Whitman County Department of Health and finish other preliminary steps required under its conditional use permit.

“We’re excited,” Hill said. “It’s been a long process, but we still have a long way to go.”


WHAT HAPPENED: The Whitman County Board of Adjustment granted James Toyota a conditional use permit for a 385-slot car dealership in the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

WHAT IT MEANS: James Toyota can now pursue building permits to construct the dealership.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: James Toyota still must submit a sewage and septic plan for approval before construction can begin.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Development in the corridor has been a longstanding issue for Whitman County and the cities of Moscow and Pullman.
It seems Mayor Moonbat has been chased back into the cave, for now at least.

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