Moses Lake Planning Commission approves comprehensive plan


LAKE MOSES – In an almost four-hour meeting on Thursday, the Lake Moses Planning Commission approved the draft comprehensive city plan, which aims to guide the city’s growth over the next 20 years.

The plan covers not only the town of Moses Lake, but the associated Urban Growth Area (UGA) around the town, focusing primarily on the town’s planned new housing on smaller lots in or near the town. building – called infill – and focusing on improving the city’s existing infrastructure.

Commissioners voted to keep part of Mae Valley centered on the intersection of Route 5 northeast and Route E northeast inside the UGA originally slated for withdrawal, but voted not to not include several blocks of industrial land south of Wheeler Road, including much of the county land between the L road and the N road – “The Donut” – which was almost entirely surrounded by the city limits and the UGA .

“We need to reinvest in our basic infrastructure and improve the visual appearance of the community,” City Manager Allison Williams told commission members. “As we develop, some areas of the city suffer from gravel roads and divestment.”

Williams said there is no community with an airport as large and active as Grant County International Airport that is courting major business investments that require people to travel through a corridor with gravel streets. .

“It’s not a good reception lane,” said Williams. “This plan provides the vision that takes us to this next step. “

The plan also predicts that Moses Lake and the surrounding UGA will grow at an estimated average rate of 2.4% per year over the next 20 years, and can expect to add about 15,800 new residents during that time, according to the One of the plan’s authors, Kevin Gifford, senior partner at Seattle-based BERK Consulting Inc.

Speaking in a short presentation at the start of the meeting, Gifford said there was enough land within the city limits and the existing UGA boundaries, even with the proposed UGA deletions , to contain 13,467 new “housing units” to accommodate 38,967 new residents – well above projected growth.

“You can accommodate quite a bit of growth within the existing city limits and within the limits of current urban growth,” he said.

Although they approved the withdrawal, the commissioners feared that the loss of this large space, currently empty and easily suitable for conversion, would make it difficult to build a large number of houses quickly if a large company employing several thousand people decided to move out. ‘settle in Moses Lake.

Commissioner Charles Hepburn said the city needs large areas where hundreds of homes can be built if necessary, and focusing new housing on infill will not be enough to meet this type of need.

“We have so many properties both within the city limits and in the UGA that it’s so difficult to develop,” Hepburn said. “In fact, much of it cannot be developed. It is not profitable.

Real estate developer and city council candidate Bob Fancher said the city is feeling the pain associated with economic growth.

“We have to decide as a community, do we want the pain? Do we want growth? Fancher said. “I am not in favor of reducing the UGA.”

However, Williams and director of community development Melissa Bethel said the city was at risk of becoming “non-compliant” with state law if it did not reduce the area of ​​urban growth and would not be eligible for all kinds of funding. public, including subsidies for transport and infrastructure. .

“We’re oversized,” Bethel said. “The state knows it, the county knows it. “

Under the Growth Management Act, passed in 1990, Bethel declared that cities are required to eventually provide essential municipal services such as water and sewage in areas of their associated UGAs.

“Sprawl costs money,” she said. “It costs a lot more than density.”

In an email to the Columbia Basin Herald after the meeting, Williams said there was no set area or figure for how much land to be removed from the UGA to bring Moses Lake into compliance, but rather a very complex calculation estimates “a net area available to house the projected population.

It is this calculation, Williams wrote, who “indicated that the combined city and urban growth zone boundaries are too large.”

Still, commissioners wanted to add major development areas, like Dune Lakes south of town, to UGA, believing the plan’s growth estimates were far too low and land would be needed to build many new ones quickly. houses.

“We have to be creative,” Hepburn said. “We’re going to grow and grow quickly, way over 2.4%, and if the state and county don’t allow that, we have to find a creative way around that.”

With their approval, the draft comprehensive plan is forwarded to Moses Lake City Council, which must review it, adopt it and make its own recommendation to the Grant County Commission, which has the final say.

The plan must at least be submitted to the county commission by the end of October for the city to be “in compliance” and eligible for state funding, Williams said.

Bethel told commissioners the plan is revised every year and if anything changes, the city can change the plan.

“This is not the end of Lake Moses as we know it,” she said. “If we get the growth spurt, we can see it again. “

Charles H. Featherstone can be contacted at [email protected]

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