WALLA WALLA -- Preliminary plans for a potential new industrial park near the city landfill could be the start of a trash-to-treasure business story.
The Port and city of Walla Walla are exploring the possibility of converting hundreds of excess acres around the Sudbury Road landfill into a light-industrial business park.
The work is in the early stages of consideration, but got a boost Thursday evening when Port of Walla Walla commissioners unanimously authorized the development of a preliminary layout plan for the property.
Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz estimated the design will cost the Port about $10,000. A firm will likely soon be selected from the Port's Small Works Roster for the project.
Development of the property would both boost the city's tax rolls and expand the Valley's breadth of light-industrial developments for potential businesses, Kuntz said. Its proximity to the realigned U.S. Highway 12 could be a draw for warehouse distribution operations and other companies transporting goods. He also sees it as a potential site for corporate offices.
"I think it would make a very nice business park," Kuntz said. "There are some beautiful views of the Blue Mountains."
Walla Walla City Manager Nabiel Shawa said the issue was broached with City Council members at a workshop shortly after the start of the year.
"The Port has a need for a high-quality, light-industrial park with space and acreage," Shawa said. "It became pretty apparent we could probably work with (them)."
With more than 1,000 acres in and around the landfill, the city could contribute 250 to 300 acres -- possibly up to as many as 400 acres -- for the project. Planning for the landfill property has already been forecast to meet the needs of the community for the next two centuries, Shawa said.
Discussions about how the property would be developed and under which entities ownership have not taken place. The property is all owned by the city.
"This is a start to show them a vision and what's possible," Kuntz said.
Though the Port has other business park properties -- it's developing plans for a commercial park in Burbank, operates a business park at the Walla Walla Regional Airport and has worked on plans for a Warehouse District that includes the former Crown Cork & Seal building -- a new business park would build real estate options for new businesses considering moving here or local businesses on the grow.
"We have always felt that businesses like choices," Kuntz said. "We may have one that says 'I really like the Crown Cork & Seal building and the feel of an old warehouse,' yet another may want to be in another nice upscale business park with landscaping, sidewalks, bike paths and corporate offices. We don't have a lot to offer in a corporate office setting."
Kuntz said Port Commissioner Ron Dunning brought the idea to the attention of staff and other commissioners at the economic development agency. Dunning is a Touchet business owner who drives past the property on his way into Walla Walla. He wondered what could be done with the excess property and brought it up to other Port officials, Kuntz said.
The city has roughed out areas on a map that will always need to be preserved for the landfill, Kuntz said. He said the next step for a possible business park would be to determine how or if it could take place.
An array of details to be covered include how to provide water and sewer services, what kind of roadway could connect the development, the design of lots and what kind of buffer would be needed to separate the property from the landfill.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8321.