Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"Panel OKs rezone for business park; County commissioners will have final say"

I love this story because it skewers three myths all at once:
1. Big-box stores don't attract small business. STRATA will be located adjacent to the Hawkins development.
2. If we develop retail in the corridor, there will be no room for high-tech businesses that pay living wage jobs.
3. Moscow's "smart growth" policies haven't chased away business.
From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

The Whitman County Planning Commission recently approved the rezoning of 15 acres deemed critical to a proposed business park on Airport Road.

The commission's recommendation will be forwarded to Whitman County commissioners, who have the final say in the rezone.

The rezone was proposed by Moscow resident and business owner Travis Wambeke. If approved, it will change the designated use of the property - located at the northwest corner of Airport Road and O'Donnell Road, just east of the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport - from agriculture to heavy industrial.

Assistant County Planner Alan Thomson said the current outline presented to the county calls for the creation of three 5-acre parcels that will be leased to construction-related businesses involved in engineering and other geotechnical work.

Thompson said Wambeke also plans to relocate his company, STRATA, to the business park. The business currently operates in Moscow.

County Commissioner Jerry Finch was not familiar with details of the proposal, but said - as always - he would welcome growth to the corridor.

"Obviously anything we can do out in the county to further economic growth we are happy about," Finch said. "It brings an opportunity to bring jobs into the county and that was our goal when we came in eight years ago."

Thomson said only a few residents showed up to the rezone hearing Wednesday and all said they supported the development. However, one resident voiced concerns over increased traffic on Airport Road and the compatibility of the business parks and nearby homes.

Thomson said traffic increases caused by the park would be minimal and the county's comprehensive plan allows for the rezone.

Planning commission member Guy Williams said the rezone met all of the county's criteria and he is "looking forward to it moving ahead."

Finch said the proposal provides just another indication that Whitman County has shed some of its stereotypes.

"We used to have a reputation of being anti-growth," Finch said. "Well, I think we've changed that and we are starting to reap the rewards."

Finch said the proposed business park likely will be one of many developments in the corridor.

"I think long-term right out along Airport Road will be a great commercial" and industrial area, Finch said.

Wambeke could not be reached for comment.

Thomson said commissioners are likely to make a decision on the rezone later this month.

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