Othello council finally OKs new zoning rules

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OTHELLO — After two and a half years and 32 meetings, the city of Othello finally has a new zoning code.

“Staff, council and the planning committee have put a lot of work into this,” said Othello Development Director Anne Henning. “This is a big step for us.”

At a regular meeting on Monday, council members voted unanimously to approve five resolutions that repealed and replaced the old zoning code.

Mayor Shawn Logan thanked the council, the development director, and especially the city’s Planning Commission, which he said has dedicated a lot of time to redoing the code.

“This has been a comprehensive process,” he said. “The council really appreciates the amount of work the Planning Commission went into. They took their charge seriously.”

The city has been working to revise its zoning code completely and align it with the city and county’s comprehensive plan. The new code is supposed to simplify city zoning regulations and create an industrial corridor along Lee Road between North Broadway and state Route 17.

Othello schools superintendent Chris Hurst expressed concern about that last matter, noting that under the new light industrial zoning the district would be unable to build a school on 80 acres the district owns on the south side of Lee Road.

However, Henning told council members last night that Hurst told her he was OK with the rezoning. At a previous meeting, Hurst told council members that a land swap was possible.

“There’s something big being worked out there,” council member John Lallas said Monday evening.

Council member John Erickson, who was elected last fall, said he was concerned that the city might have damaged its long-term relationship with the school district.

“We need to maintain a good relationship with the school district,” he said. “Did they feel forced into it? Will it damage our relationship?”

The land was originally unzoned and left as open space, which under city rules would have required the school district to petition for a rezoning that would have allowed for school construction. Several council members were concerned that truck traffic on Lee Road between state Route 17 and the cluster of large food processing firms along North Broadway would make the location too dangerous for any kind of school.

“They were not misled,” Lallas said. “We told them it was open space but in the comprehensive plan was slated to be industrial.”

According to a memo from Henning outlining the code changes, the “update eliminates conflicts between code sections, reduces duplication, better matches the code and map with currently likely development, adds design standards to achieve higher quality development for the community, and makes the code easier for staff, developers, and the public to use and understand through tables and graphics rather than all text.”

A map of future development also envisions the city expanding in nearly all directions, with industrial development concentrated in the north and residential development in the south and west of the current city limits.

However, before the council voted, council member and real estate developer Angel Garza wondered if a portion of the open space north of his Sand Hill Estates could be rezoned residential and allow for “two more phases” of his Sand Hill development.

“We could move it (the residential zoning line) 700 or 800 feet to the north for more housing, if it’s possible,” Garza said.

However, Logan, not looking for any more complications that could further delay a lengthy process, said the council should pass the ordinances and allow anyone seeking to rezone open space to go through the process of applying for that rezoning.

“It’s open space,” Lallas added. “If someone comes, they can request zoning, go before the hearing examiner, and get that rezoned.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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