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ML council approves updated comp plan

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 11, 2021 1:05 AM

MOSES LAKE — Moses Lake City Council members voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve an updated Comprehensive Plan – after requests to delay the process due to possible development, which could be affected by the plan and the urban growth area (UGA) boundary.

The plan is required under the state’s Growth Management Act regulations and is designed as a guide for development through the next 20 years.

The plan includes changes to the city’s UGA boundaries. Land within the UGA boundary is subject to different regulations than land outside it.

The council had two different proposals to consider: one from city staff, and one from the Moses Lake Planning Commission.

The planning commission option included more land in the UGA.

But council members chose the option recommended by the city’s staff.

In a public hearing before the vote, Kevin Richards, president of Western Pacific Engineering & Survey, asked council members to delay the vote for two weeks, saying a solar panel manufacturing company was considering moving into an existing, but vacant, facility on Wheeler Road. Richards said he couldn’t provide any other details about the company and apologized for bringing the request to the council so late in the process.

Richards estimated the company would provide about $4 billion annually in economic activity to the Moses Lake area. The project has support from state agencies and could qualify for federal funds, he said. Washington State Department of Commerce officials sent an email to Moses Lake city officials Tuesday, Richards said, asking council members to table approval of the plan, at least temporarily.

City Manager Allison Williams said she received an email from the Department of Commerce, but she didn’t give any details about what it said. A request to city officials from the Herald for the email and its contents was not answered by press time.

Kim Foster, an attorney representing the ASPI (Aerospace Port International) group also asked the council to delay approval. The company owns about 350 acres of land on the east side of Moses Lake proposed for removal from the UGA, which Foster said would drastically impact ASPI’s ability to develop it.

Foster said city officials didn’t notify ASPI about the proposed UGA changes, and ignored the company’s responses.

Foster told the Herald Wednesday the company might consider legal action in the wake of the council vote.

“ASPI will be considering all its options, including legal action,” he said. “The basis will be violation of due process.”

Williams said during the meeting the area Richards was referring to has not been part of the planning process. As a result it would, she said, have to go through the process, including environmental review, which would take longer than two weeks.

Williams said she would recommend a meeting between the parties interested in the Wheeler Road property. She said city officials had some concerns about the proposal, but she thought everyone could work together. She did not address ASPI’s request at the meeting.

Williams said she didn’t think the Comprehensive Plan process should be halted for an unknown project.

Council member Daryl Jackson said he didn’t know if the consultants who helped prepare the city’s plan talked to all the interested parties, citing the Port of Moses Lake as an example. There were still a lot of unknowns, Jackson said, and it was hard to make a decision under those circumstances.

Council member Don Myers agreed, saying he was in favor of slowing down the process, at least until the next council meeting. But council members voted to approve the option recommended by the city staff.

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