Walla Walla City Council approves 189-house subdivision

The vote marked the end of a three-year process that featured opposition from neighbors of the Provenance development at the end of East Alder Street.

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WALLA WALLA - The largest residential subdivision the city has seen in several years was approved Wednesday night by Council, but not without numerous objections raised over the last three years.

On Wednesday, Council members voted 5-1 to approve the 189-unit Provenance subdivision on the east side of town, near an area that has been touted as pristine and critical habitat for salmon in Yellow Hawk Creek.

Council member Jim Barrow was the one dissenting vote.

"I am concerned that the traffic in and out of Provenance and the extension of Alder is making a bad situation worse, if not dangerous, and that the road was not built as an arterial," Barrow said, detailing his opposition.

Over the last three years since developers introduced the subdivision to local neighbors, numerous complaints and objections have been voice and documented over traffic concerns, loss of open spaces, threats to salmon and the creation of a vacation rental community in back yards.

In fact, at one point developer Michael Corliss had considered adding up to 50 cottage houses, which would have ranged from 550-800 square feet and would most likely have been second homes for vacationers.

Neighbors said those smaller houses would have most likely become vacation rental units, changing the character of the area.

But after hearing those protests and doing further market research, Corliss opted for a new plan, one that might borrow from some of the developments of generations past.

The plan that was approved Wednesday night will include putting in houses that range mostly from 1,200 to 1,700 square feet.

"We believe that sort of mega chateau houses are not what is currently in demand either in this marketplace and/or others," Corliss said, noting more than 70 percent of Walla Walla's families do not have school-age children.

So rather than build big, Provenance developers will build more traditional-looking homes like those in the city's older neighborhoods.

Provenance's houses will have detached garages, some tracts will have alleyways and there will large bungalow-type porches.

The developers will also offer buyers the chance to add a self-contained accessory dwelling unit above the garage, what some might consider a guest house.

Corliss explained that while many older couples don't want bigger "chateau" homes, they do want a place for visitors to stay. And he doubted those accessory units will become vacation rentals.

"I don't know that there is going to be a prohibition against someone renting that outright, but we think the accessory dwelling unit will be for a couple who has college-age children or grown-age children who may come to visit them in Walla Walla," he said.

The developer expects to pour the first concrete by this spring, with models homes to be erected soon after.

The 189-lot project will be built in nine phases, he said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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