Nov. 6 update: The Observer added Gret’l Crawford’s response to the bottom of the article.
After spending much of her first two years in office trying to help developers while possibly compromising the safety of area residents and adding to their tax burden, Richland Councilmember Theresa Richardson reaped the rewards in contributions to her re-election campaign. State campaign spending records show that she has received about $15,000 in text messages and online spending as well as a $1,500 direct contribution from the Washington Realtors Political Action Committee (PAC).
According to the Washington Political Disclosure Commission website, the PAC has spent almost twice as much for Richardson’s campaign as she has.
Richardson and her husband complained in 2022 that a plans examiner’s safety concerns slowed down the construction of their home addition which may have cost them more money.
The Richardsons tied the issue with their home addition to attracting outside investment to the city, seeming to imply that rigorous safety review discouraged development.
The plans examiner assigned the Richardson project worried that the underlying structure in the construction plan could not support a concrete slab, a pergola, and an outdoor kitchen. When pressed to approve the project anyway, the plans examiner told his manager, “That’s how people die.”
The plan examiner resigned citing political pressure which a consultant the city hired tied to the loss of employees in the planning department and “low morale.” The consultant suggested “avoid political interference in the substance of decisions made by staff.”
On June 6, 2023, developer Gret’l Crawford, a friend of Richardson and mayor pro tem of Kennewick spoke to the Richland council during the public comment period. Crawford, who has been known to call Richardson at home to complain about her development problems in Richland, objected to proposed traffic impact fees that would be charged to herself and other developers for road construction that supported their projects.
Without the fees, the taxpayers of Richland would have to pick up the tab.
Richardson asked to remove the item on the impact fees from the consent calendar for a separate vote. She then voted “no,” her only no vote since becoming a city councilmember. The impact fee was approved five to one.
Randy, Thank you for presenting a side of this story. The other information that your readers may want to hear, especially those that live or desire to live in Richland, is that Richland already has the highest Traffic Impact fees of the 4 largest cities in the region. The original request to increase traffic impact fees in Richland (in March 2023, I believe) would have raised it an additional $ 3,707.09 per home (door, for apartments) for a total of $ 5,936.18 per new home for all of you wanting to live in the Badger South area of Richland, or zone 3. This is a 266% increase. The second option that was brought up at the June 6 meeting due to some pushback, was for an increase of a lessor amount: $5,196.11 per (Door) or home, down to an increase of only 233% more than current Traffic Impact fees. At this lower rate of $5,196.11 per home, it is still more than the next highest jurisdiction at ($1,762 per home, Pasco at $709 per home and Kennewick at $346-1,346 per home, with this data coming directly from the City of Richland). Why does it cost so much more in Richland?? The bottom line is that City Council votes and enacts policy decisions that affect the citizens and it is important to hear all of the facts and the implications of those votes. Affordable Housing is a real issue and we are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. These costs all get passed on to the end user, and these fees collected for Traffic impact fees do not get passed on to citizens for the development of the properties, they are held in an account to help with if/when the cities need added stop lights, road widening, etc. Developers still pay all of the fees to complete their developments, and permits for new homes often also include more fees including Parks fees, school impact fees, etc. These all add up to create the Housing affordability crisis we now see, amongst many other things that continually get lumped into the cost of housing. Theresa and I are concerned about this, yes, and if we don’t try to educate our constituents and slow down unnecessary fees, who does? This would also have been good information to include in the story, hope it helps your readers get a clear understanding. Citizens of Richland that may want to move to that area, or those that may want to see their kids come back and be able to afford a home may want to know that only Theresa voted against these additional fees. There are always two sides to look at when making these difficult decisions. I hope that this helps give some background. Thank you.