WALLA WALLA -- A thousand acres of public land set aside for future landfill use have caught the eyes of major promoters of business and guns in the region.
At a City Council work session on Monday, the Port of Walla Walla presented a plan to dedicate 274 of those acres along the northern corridor of U.S. Highway 12 from Sudbury Landfill almost to Dell Avenue as a light industrial park.
Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz said the city has no single tract that would accommodate a larger light industrial center, and he questioned what would have happened today if Key Technology were trying to set up shop or expand.
"What happens if Key Technology were to knock on our door today and say we want 20 acres in the city of Walla Walla that would be in a business park setting. Where would we put it today? ... I think the answer would be that we don't have anything out there," Kuntz said.
Within the next 30 days the Port plans to hold a public meeting to discuss the development of an industrial park within the city.
City Manager Nabiel Shawa said if the city wants to go ahead with developing the business park, it would have to make a rezone request with the Planning Commission by the end of March or hold off on the proposal for another two years.
The Walla Walla Gun Club also has its eyes on roughly 125 acres for its new facility, which could be built on the north end of landfill expansion property.
Secretary and treasurer Bob Bloch said the club isn't asking for funds -- the club recently received a matching $195,000 grant from the state to develop a new facility. The state's half of the funds was to come from revenues received for concealed weapons permits, Bloch said in an interview last spring.
Bloch said Monday the club takes in about $500,000 a year, and he expects that number to quadruple because the new range would include rifle and pistol shooting facilities.
"We have all our options on the table at the moment. We got this big lot of money from the state and we are looking for a place to go spend it," Bloch told Council members at Monday's work session.
The gun club also had the support of Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner, who told council on Monday the Sheriff's Office and other regional law enforcement agencies are in need of pistol and rifle ranges that can also serve as a police training centers.
Bloch and Turner also said tournaments and police training courses will boost the local tourism economy.
"If you have a class that is Wednesday through Friday, they will stay here through the weekend because they want to stay here in Walla Walla," Turner said.
Bloch said the gun club is also considering locations outside the city.
City officials said that if both tracts were dedicated for business and gun club use, there would still be adequate public land to meet the needs for future landfill expansions.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.