Richland Mayor Terry Christensen. Photo by the Observer

The Observer doesn’t write many Recaps because the Richland City Council usually rubberstamps the agenda items at their meetings without any discussion. Tuesday night’s workshop meeting included two hours of discussion and four topics – shoreline transfer, surplus property, a new police station and an increase in traffic impact fees.

The tribe holds all the cards

“Just as a matter of practicality, can you speak to the likelihood of the reconveyance without the tribes support,” Councilmember Ryan Lukson asked Deputy City Manager Joe Schiessl during a discussion of the draft memorandum of agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).

“Probably near zero,” Schiessl responded.

The city needs the tribe to approve a transfer of two parcels of land to the city that is now owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the elimination of flowage easements on other properties to succeed in having the federal government agree to it. The tribe has had treaty rights to the land since 1855.

A few moments later, Mayor Terry Christensen, wanted to know if the city could get support from the tribe for the requests the city made about the removal of the causeway at Bateman Island.

“It would change the whole game real quick, if they came over and supported our position on breaching the causeway,” Christensen told Schiessl.

Maybe Christensen doesn’t understand who’s holding the cards.

Christensen was one of three members who attended the special workshop with the tribe on April 7. At that meeting Kat Brigham, CTUIR board of trustees chair, said the tribe supports the removal of the causeway and efforts to restore the salmon. She urged that the city soften its letter to the Corps listing concerns with toxic silt and harm to water intake facilities, and business interests.

Surplus property

Surprise, surprise, the city discovered that the approximate 6-acre property at 24 Lawless Drive, actually belongs to the city and not the Washington State Department of Transportation as originally believed, according to Community Development Director Kerwin Jensen.

The property will be zoned C-2 to allow for hotels, restaurants, automotive services, assisted living facilities like the property north of it, 1383 Lawless, according to Community Development Director Kerwin Jensen. The northern property is listed in the Benton County property records as owned by Bush Trustees, Timothy T. and Kathryn L.,

Councilmember Jhoanna Jones said, “There’s no way you want to live right there. The highway is very loud. There’s no way you can allow residential. It would just be a miserable place.”

The zoning does allow certain types of residential development including assisted living facilities.

“Is there a way we can see a map to show here’s all the undeveloped areas that could be surplus in the future, just kind of a big picture,” Councilmember Shayne VanDyke asked Jensen.

“You asked me that the other night and we’re working towards something like that,” Jensen told VanDyke.

Referring to the property recently purchased by New Heights Church for a parking lot, Jensen said, “It wasn’t until somebody started looking around at a vacant parcel that we discovered it was ours and so we can do our best to come up with that inventory and show vacant parcels that the city owns.”

City Manager Jon Amundson tried to downplay the amount of property that has been declared surplus by noting that Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky often brings up property easements that have a “minor impact.”

“It’s allowing somebody to build a shed of something in their backyard because of a former easement. So that enters into the mix, and we see a number of those,” he said.

Property considered for surplus in the last two years

April 25, 2023, 24 Lawless

April 17, 2023, the Economic Development Committee approved declaring surplus and selling land behind two homes on Falcon Lane. The land is now part of the Badger Mt. trail system.

March 21, 2023, former Harding Street right-of-way in front of the former Days Inn Motel was declared surplus and sold to Fortify Holdings which is turning the hotel into micro-apartments.  

March 9, 2023, the Park and Recreation Committee approved declaring surplus and selling 2.5 acres at 150 Keene Road. The businesses on Keene Road have asked to purchase the property behind their businesses that is part of the trail system.

January 23, 2023, the Economic Development Committee approved declaring surplus and selling a strip of land behind 341 Gleneagles Ct. which has the homeowners wall on it. The land is currently part of Claybell Park.

Oct. 4, 2022, Richland sold surplus property at 350 Thayer to New Heights Church, Councilmember Richardson’s church.

November 15, 2022, Staff began evaluating old fire station 73 at McMurray and Jadwin for surplus. The Boys and Girls Club has expressed interest in the property.

March 1, 2022, Richland gave up a 60-foot-wide road easement that connected Bradley Blvd. to the river trail. Originally, there was a road to a boat dock. Since the Observer article appeared in April 2022, a Cedar and Sage representative told the Observer that the condos originally planned for the former easement would be apartments instead. The company has said that they would provide a path to the river but there is no legal requirement.

Feb. 22, 2022, the city declared surplus and donated 1.7 acres of land to Washington State University to add to the 45 acres on George Washington Way they had already donated to them. The university plans to sell the property for development.

July 20, 2021 — Property at 606 Jadwin was declared surplus and sold to the Richland Players.

July 20, 2021 – 840 Northgate was declared surplus and given to Columbia Basin College for $1. The city was given the building by the Department of Energy which restricted its use. A representative of the college wrote the Observer that there were no plans for the property but the college was maintaining it.

Feb. 2021 – Davenport right-of-way was declared surplus and traded for some road improvements on Comstock but a strip through it was saved because it has a water pipe under it.  That will allow school children access to the intersection that they use to walk to Carmichael Middle School and Richland High School on the other side of Wellsian Way.

In Other business

The council discussed how they could pay for a new police station. Deputy City Manager Schiessl and Police Chief Brigit Clary outlined the options. The current station was built in 2001. The population in Richland then was about 39,000. The 2020 census put the population at about 61,000.

Councilmembers balked at an increase in traffic impact fees that pay for roads and other infrastructure improvements for new development. The fees could more than double in some areas, from around $2,000 to around $5,000. The cost to builders is usually passed on to the homebuyer. The matter had an hour discussion.