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ML council considers repeal of comprehensive plan

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | May 12, 2022 1:20 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake City Council is considering repealing the city’s comprehensive plan only months after passing it.

At a regular meeting Tuesday, the council voted 5–2 to ask city staff for an ordinance that would repeal the plan, which was passed last November.

According to council member and real estate agent Mark Fancher, who proposed the motion, the plan needs to be repealed so the council can consider a replacement that will take into consideration the growth that is coming following recent announcements from two large high-tech battery makers — Sila Nanotechnologies and Group14 Technologies — of major investments in manufacturing capability in Moses Lake that will bring with it hundreds of jobs, increased traffic and the need for new housing.

“There have been a lot of media announcements of new industrial employers,” Fancher said. “This does not discount the work of staff, but I have concerns.”

Fancher said the plan, which required the removal of land from the Moses Lake Urban Growth Area in order to comply with state law, failed to take into consideration the speed at which the city is changing and the drastic need for housing as a result of the city’s growth.

When new city council members were sworn in last December, several — including Fancher — expressed concern that the removal of a large tract of land in Mae Valley meant the city’s UGA didn’t have enough land in it for a major, large-scale housing development should a large industrial employer locate here and kick off demand for new homes.

“It’s about housing stock. Those major employers are all asking about housing stock,” Fancher said. “I want to make sure we have an appropriate amount of land to go with the growth.”

Fancher said the council also failed to solicit enough input from the public and that there needs to be more public discussion about the size of the UGA.

The Growth Management Act was passed by the Washington State Legislature in 1990 and requires cities to identify urban growth areas and write comprehensive plans as a way of managing urban growth.

Council members David Eck and Deanna Martinez voted against the measure, with Eck recommending the council have a study session on the matter before putting the request to a vote.

Eck also said Fancher’s proposal — which doesn’t repeal the comprehensive plan, but merely asks for an ordinance that would repeal it — slights the work done by the previous city council, of which Eck was a member.

“You are implying the prior council was derelict in its duty,” Eck said.

“I’m not saying that at all,” Fancher replied. “We have an opportunity to build for the future. Things are changing and changing very quickly.”

City Manager Allison Williams said if the council repealed the plan, the city would be out of compliance with state law and would possibly be ineligible to apply for state grants to cover major infrastructure and improvement projects, such as for road work and affordable housing.

“It would be a consideration,” Williams said of the state funding process. “There is a risk.”

Williams also said repeal would require at least one public hearing, though City Attorney Katherine Kenison added the council could hold more than one hearing if it really wanted public input, but one hearing was the minimum required by law.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com