BURBANK -- By this time next year a bank branch, dental office, dry cleaner, even a fast food restaurant could be staking claim on the empty lots lining U.S. Highway 12 between Humorist Road and State Route 124.
With a water system in place, sewer system in the works and a new interchange under construction on the highway, a long-term vision to develop the Port of Walla Walla's Burbank Business Park is coming to life one step at a time.
Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz unveiled an ambitious timeline for the next part of the project.
He hopes to have a binding site plan that will allow the division of lots for commercial and industrial property at the Port's more than 100-acre park in place by next March. The 85-lot plan needs approval from Walla Walla County before the lots can be sold and developed.
A county official said a binding plan this large is more likely to take five months to process. Kuntz said he hopes sewer installation will begin next summer.
"And then we're off and selling lots," he said.
Whether the timeline is optimistic, the transformation is well under way.
During a recent meeting in Burbank, Port officials presented the latest updates to residents.
Rising property taxes and mandated services were common concerns among residents. Several were also cautiously optimistic about a business park with tree-lined paths and basic services they now have to drive to Pasco to receive.
Burbank resident Debbie Williams said she fears development that comes too swiftly. Some also wondered if the roughly 3,300 residents in the community can support 85 lots of commercial development, especially with access to Pasco's businesses nearby.
But commissioners assured that full development is more likely to take decades, and protective covenants will ensure a tastefully designed business park.
Commission President Mike Fredrickson clarified taxes are more likely to go down as new businesses join the park and share the load.
He said the breakdown of property into smaller lots could help counter the strip-mall-type of development along the neighboring community's thoroughfare. But commissioners also said it's possible one owner could buy several small lots and piece them into a large development.
Port officials say the heavy industrial tenants will remain along the park's waterfront. Light manufacturing and commercial will be closest to the highway.
Kuntz said Pasco will provide sewer treatment service. Building the initial connection across and under the Snake River will cost $1.8 million.