City Council makes right call to fix zoning problems

It would have been a mistake to allow city government to circumvent its own zoning rules.

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The Walla Walla City Council wisely rejected a proposal that would have allowed city government to circumvent the rezone rules so city property could be rezoned without going through the same process as citizens.

The original proposal to give the city a way around the rules was made out of frustration after two seemingly simple land deals became complex.

In one case the city was trying to follow a recommendation of a 2005 Homeland Security survey calling for a security fence to be placed around the Clinton Street water reservoir. In the other, the city wanted to do a small land swap with a neighboring private property owner near the city-owned golf course to keep golf balls away from nearby private property.

Nevertheless, the ends should not justify the means -- especially for government. The city should follow the same rules it imposes on citizens.

This proposal came under fire when the details were discussed. The state Department of Commerce had concern and so, too, did a local group, Citizens for Good Governance.

An effort was made to alter the proposal so it would be more palatable.

That wasn't good enough. A number of folks remained concerned about the lack of a public hearing process.

But the overriding concern was -- as it should be -- that the city would have more authority to rezone than private property owners.

Council members took the concerns seriously and unanimously rejected the proposal.

And the city is now looking at fixing some of the problems. City Attorney Tim Donaldson said the city will use the current comprehensive plan rezone process to solve a number of zoning problems.

"We have identified a number of properties, not only city properties ... it presents an opportunity for us to combine all these properties together with ours and to pursue the process next year," Donaldson said.

Fixing problems is a far better course of action than circumventing a flawed process. The Council made the right call.

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