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Mattawa raises fees, upholds cargo container restriction

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | January 9, 2024 5:24 PM

MATTAWA — The Mattawa City Council voted unanimously during Thursday’s regular meeting to approve increased fees for city review processes. The council also upheld the city’s current code prohibiting cargo containers in commercial and residential zoning outside of temporary construction storage. 

SCJ Alliance Contract Planner Rachelle Bradley said the planning agency is recommending the city increase several of its building, planning and other review fees to recapture revenue from increasing costs. 

“We're proposing increasing some of your fees and your fee schedule since we last updated it in December 2021,” You’ll also see a table on the last page of the memo that kind of illustrates similarly sized communities, or those that are in the same region or ag communities in Grant County, And so, we looked at those and we also looked at what we know if your actual costs that are being accrued from different review processes.”

Bradley explained that the increased fees not only reflect actual costs and other communities but also recoup costs that SCJ Alliance charges to the city for its planning services.

“(The fee schedule) was updated in 2021, in December, we went through that. That was your first update since 2006,” Bradley said. “Since then, we've obviously been processing permits. Even just in this last 2023 cycle, you've had two to three times more applications than you had even in 2022 and that was with your 2021 backlog. So we understand that as you're continuing to be busy we just want to ensure that you're capturing those fees as accurately as possible.”

The council voted to approve the new fees and fee schedule before moving on to discuss cargo containers as storage devices on city properties. Council member Antonio Acosta talked about public feedback he had received on the subject. 

“I did get a chance to talk to some people out there and there was kind of a mix of opinions,” Acosta said. “Some people believe that there shouldn't be any cargo containers here in the city and I did have some people that said that they should with the restriction that they should only be in the commercial zoning area.”

According to Mattawa Public Works Director Juan Ledezma, cargo containers are only allowed through conditional-use permits that grant temporary permission to use one as storage for construction sites.

Council member Fabiola Hernandez discussed the potential implications of allowing cargo containers in commercial zones.

“If all the businesses are allowed to have one, it's going to be more than 60 containers used,” Hernandez said. “Especially on Government Road, and we need to keep in mind where we want to proceed.”

Mayor Maria Celaya responded to Hernandez. 

“I know there's concern for how many containers would be on Government Road, on the main road, but if you restricted it, the space that it would need or the space available for it, that's not going to allow everyone to have one,” Celaya said.

Acosta explained his preferred course of action.

“I still hold my position that we should keep our current code the way it reads and not allow cargo containers in Mattawa, with the exception of that … period for construction, as long as the process is followed,” Acosta said. 

Ledezma said there are nine cargo containers currently in the city of Mattawa, several of which violate city ordinances. 

Eventually, the council voted unanimously to allow city staff to issue notices to owners of non-compliant containers giving them until Dec. 31, 2024, to remove the containers or come into compliance with city code. The council kept the code, which prohibits containers except as temporary storage for construction, the same. 

Mattawa Chief of Police Robert Salinas also provided statistics on the Police Department’s 2023 calls for service. 

“At the end of the year, it was 1,281 (calls), which is almost 200 more than 2022,” Salinas said.

Council member Alexander Heredia asked Salinas which crimes made up a significant number of calls during the year and what additional training the department requires. 

“Right now, with what we've seen in this community, we have a lot of disturbances and domestics that happen…officers are getting training in de-escalation,” Salinas said. “In the past year, we got a grant for that, and basically, we have money to send officers to this de-escalation training. So we're going to be utilizing that so officers get more training in that sense.”

At the meeting, the council also decided to keep council member Sun Hwang as Mayor Pro Tem.

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

    Mattawa Police Chief Robert Salinas sits inside Mattawa City Hall during Thursday’s regular Mattawa City Council meeting. Salinas provided the council an update on the department’s calls for service in 2023, outlining what types of calls they had to deal with most.