Friday, April 12, 2024

City planning, contracts and cargo containers

Staff Writer | December 26, 2023 1:23 PM

MATTAWA — Mattawa’s regular City Council meeting Thursday featured a public hearing on the city’s updated comprehensive plan, SCJ Alliance’s contract with the city, the city’s Parks and Recreation visioning workshop, discussion of cargo containers in the city and approval of city’s contract with NCW Libraries. 

The council began by holding a public hearing on the comprehensive plan, which did not feature any comments from residents, before moving on to discuss the Mattawa Parks, Recreation and Open Space plan visioning workshop Dec. 15 and the Open Space planning process. 

“We didn't get too many participants in person for the visioning workshop, which is to be expected,” said SCJ Alliance Contract Planner Rachelle Bradley. “However, we've had a lot of success with our online surveys

Bradley elaborated on the plans for the future.

“Either it'll be this online depending on how this turns out for the remainder of the year, or we might put together some projects based off of what we've heard. We've gotten a pretty comprehensive list,” Bradley said. “We asked that question in the Comprehensive Plan survey, as well, and we want to prioritize, ask the community which (projects) they have a preference for. It seems like a splash park is kind of trending the highest; also bathrooms, new bathrooms. So it was really great to see that, and we're really hoping we can just outline that. And the major outcome of this plan is its a vision for Mattawa’s future for the pros, and we're working with our landscape architects to be able to actually design some concept drawings, and also cost estimates, so when you submit for grants you're highly likely to get funded.”

Council member Fabiola Hernandez expressed her concern about community members misinterpreting the park plans, such as the splash park, as happening sooner rather than later. Bradley explained that SCJ Alliance had made it clear during the community visioning workshop and surveying that the plans were long-term over about 20 years. 

Later, the council addressed SCJ Alliance’s contract, with Bradley introducing the proposed contract. 

“What we’re proposing for the year 2024 would be $60,000 budget not-to-exceed; that doesn't mean we're gonna for sure spend the $60,000, but that's our absolute ceiling,” Bradley said. “And then for 2025 and 2026 each, we'll do $75,000, because we anticipate you to be continuously busy in those years as well. So that's what we have proposed — aside from that the scope of work will remain the same.”

Council member Antonia Acosta asked if the contract would allow for SCJ Alliance to allow other agencies to supplement their work if their workload capacity is reached. Bradley said it would likely require prior discussion, but that she saw no issue with the idea.

At the meeting, the council also discussed the question of whether cargo containers should be allowed on commercial properties as storage devices within certain limitations.

“This ordinance I believe was adopted in 1998. I would like council to consider the business owners,” Mayor Maria Celaya said. “They are going through these growing pains just like the city is. They're needing more inventory, more people come into the city … they need more space for storage.”

Acosta provided his input on the idea.

“I don't see why we would consider allowing cargo containers in the city. I understand other communities may think differently. Perhaps your visions a little different. We're trying to grow the city and make it look a little nicer, and we’re struggling,” Acosta said. “I don't think we should change our current ordinance. I think if there are containers in the city, we do need to get rid of them and provide other options for the people that have them … We provide options, maybe educational pieces before we go to the enforcement piece of it, and what we've talked about before is a lot of time we have a lot of codes, there's a lot of rules, and people don't know them until we hit them with that ‘hey, you’re in violation.’”

Council member Silvia Barajas said it is expensive for business owners to go through the planning, permitting and building process to construct a storage structure, which can not be easily removed if the business wants to expand later on

Council member Wendy Lopez said she agreed with Barajas.

“I feel like the cargo containers, although they may not look as attractive as one would like, they are removable, it is something that can be placed, maybe in a different location where it's not seen or it's not as visible,” Lopez said.

Celaya asked if the council would consider a subcommittee on the issue.

“I wouldn't mind starting a committee where we do hear from the businesses,” Lopez said. “They do pay taxes and that's the reason we're here, for our community. I would love to hear from more business owners regarding cargo containers.”

Public Works Director Juan Ledezma cautioned the implications of allowing containers, saying it would have to be highly regulated. 

“If council allows it, this could be 60 to 80 cargo containers throughout Government Road, just commercial,” Ledezma said. “I mean, it's still a significant amount and I think the court enforcement on that, making sure businesses are using them adequately, that's where we would need additional support…It's ultimately the vision of what council wants.”

The council ultimately decided to continue discussing the subject at later council meetings with input from the community, and potentially forming a subcommittee to address the matter further. 

At the end of the meeting, the council discussed their contract with NCW Libraries, ultimately voting to approve a one-year contract with the library district. 

Gabriel Davis may be reached at Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.

    Mattawa’s Hund Memorial Park, which is also where the Mattawa Public Library is located. In addition to discussing Mattawa’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan, the council also approved a one-year contract with NCW Libraries during Thursday’s City Council meeting.
    An aerial photo of the city of Mattawa. Thursday’s regular Mattawa City Council meeting featured a public hearing for Mattawa’s updated comprehensive plan as well as a community visioning workshop held Dec. 15.