Traffic concerns send development back to planners

Council also voiced concerns over possible environmental impacts to Yellowhawk Creek and too narrow of streets.

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WALLA WALLA -- The proposed Provenance subdivision was unanimously remanded Wednesday night because Council members feared adding 189 homes would exacerbate current traffic problems in the area, especially on Alder Street near Assumption Catholic School.

"To make it even worse, to add additional traffic, people going to work or bringing their children to school, I think that is problematic," Council member Jim Barrow said.

Council members also voiced concerns over possible environmental impacts to threatened fish species in Yellowhawk Creek and too narrow of streets to allow passage of larger emergency vehicles. But in the end, traffic safety was the only reason the project was remanded. Related to that concern was the question of why the developer would be required to pay only $25,000 toward a new $300,000 traffic light at Tausick Way and Alder Street.

"I am normally pro development. We need ways to figure out how to get these (larger developments) done. But help convince me that this is fair," Council member Dominick Elia said to City Planner Gary Mabley.

Mayor Barbara Clark pushed for monetary assurances against environmental issues should any of the homeowners encroach on the 50-foot setback requirement for Yellowhawk Creek. She noted that similar riparian setbacks have failed to keep back homeowners, partly due to a lack of enforcement. "I am truly concerned because they haven't done this in the past. Right across the creek there is no enforcement action. And it would just be a tragedy for us to allow all the (riparian habitat restoration) work to be destroyed from the last 10 to 15 years," Clark said.

About a dozen protesters, mostly neighbors of the area, were at Wednesday's City Council meeting, and most were caught off guard when staff informed them they would not be allowed to testify because state regulations stipulated that the open hearing portion was limited to the previous Planning Commission meeting. At one point, one man who planned to speak stood and said, "I would ask at this point how many people came here to give comments at the meeting?" About 10 hands were raised.

With the remanding of the project to the Planning Commission, those neighbors will get a second chance to give public testimony. However, there was some question as to whether they will be able to comment only on traffic safety, or if environmental or other concerns will be heard.

The developers of the Provenance subdivision are in the process of asking the city to approve a plat map that would place 189 homes on what is now 77 acres of open field bordered by the Yellowhawk Creek subdivision, Assumption Catholic School and several other surrounding homes, farms and vineyards.

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