Rezone could enliven Melrose parcel

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WALLA WALLA -- Port of Walla Walla officials hope a new zoning designation could infuse life into a more than 20-acre parcel of land off Melrose Street.

The property that decades ago was home to the Sky Vue Drive-In has been an empty landscape of fields, limited to development by federal aviation regulations while commercial businesses operate around it.

Given the location in the Walla Walla Regional Airport's safety zone, the land will likely never be a destination for high-density businesses.

But Port officials do believe the property has the potential to generate revenue with some low-density uses, such as storage facilities and auto lot parking.

The first step, they say, is seeking a zoning change from the city of Walla Walla. The city will be conducting a review of its comprehensive plan, and any applications for major changes must be filed by the end of the month, Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz said.

Under the current Public Reserve zoning designation there is no way to generate an income from the property.

"We're dead in the water right now with public reserve," Kuntz said during Thursday's Port meeting.

With guidance from Seattle land-use attorney Tadas Kisielius, Port officials will seek either a highway commercial or light industrial designation.

Kuntz said he plans to organize a meeting with state and federal aviation officials to determine how best to proceed. "We want to maximize revenue generation in a safe and sane way," he said.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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