Without seeing the three offers to buy 350 Thayer Drive, which were not included in their packet of information for the meeting, three members of the Richland Economic Development Committee voted to recommend that the property be sold to New Heights Church for a parking lot.
Committee member Joseph Potts asked Planner Darin Arrasmith if the group could see the proposals. Arrasmith told him that that wasn’t part of the process.
The Richland City Council voted to put 350 Thayer on the surplus property list, available for sale, at their April 19 meeting. The property is behind the Wellsian Way Fred Meyer.
The Observer asked Councilmember Theresa Richardson at the April meeting if her church, New Heights, which is next to the property, planned to bid. She responded that she was only a member and did not know what the church leadership planned to do.
Ginger Wireman obtained information about the three proposals from a friend who made a record request. During the public comment period Wireman pointed out that one of the proposals was for a single-family home, another was for several townhouses and the third was for a parking lot for the neighboring church.
“Parking lots bring us no tax dollars and your job is to improve the economic situation of this community,” Wireman told committee members.
Wireman, one of the directors of the newly formed Tres Rio Community Land Trust said “I was broken hearted that I didn’t feel like we were ready yet to put a proposal in on this parcel.”
“We have a crisis in not just low-income housing but workforce housing also and this lot is appropriate for three or four townhomes, she said.
Wireman noted, “We already have precedent for changing the zoning just around the corner on Tim Bush’s property.”
That property had formerly been parkland until it was declared surplus and sold to Bush, one of the founding members of New Heights Church, at the December 18, 2018, city council meeting.
Townhouses are under construction on the Bush property.
Only five of the eight members attended the special committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. which included consideration of the Thayer property and a couple of other items. Two of the five recused themselves from the Thayer vote citing conflict of interest and left the room. Only three listened to the presentation and voted.
Arrasmith told the committee that the lot was part of the land the federal government turned over to the city in 1958. Then he briefly described the three proposals for the .38 acre lot, appraised at $120,000, to the remaining committee members.
Arrasmith said that the parking lot was the only proposal that met current zoning requirements.
He reported that a four-member team representing the “city council, planning commission and EDC” had scored the three proposals.
The Observer reached out to City Manager Jon Amundson, and also to Councilmember Jhoanna Jones, council liaison to the committee, to ask for the names of the four team members. Neither of them responded.
Planning Commission Chair Francesca Maier did reply and said that she knew nothing about the scoring team.
In an email to The Observer’s City Attorney Heather Kintzley provided the references to the city codes that support the three out of eight vote:
“A majority vote of the quorum is sufficient to accomplish an action (except for BOA, Library Board and CEB, which require at least three affirmative votes). RMC 2.04.110(M)(2). In this case, three (3) members of the 5-member quorum approved the motion, which is a “majority vote” of the quorum and a sufficient number for the action to pass.”
No date was provided for the city council’s vote on the sale.