The city of West Richland continues to be a desirable place to live, made evident by the 84 single-family home building permits requested during the first six months of 2017.
That’s an impressive number when compared to the 89 single-family home construction permits issued in all of 2016.
“This year has been big. We are trending better on single-family permits this year than last,” said Aaron Lambert, the city’s community development director. “The hurdle now is there aren’t enough platted lots. The developers are scrambling to get that done.”
The city experienced similar booms in 2013 and 2014, but isn’t able to keep up with the demand at this time, Lambert said.
“For a city of nearly 15,000 residents, around 150 homes (in a year) is quite a bit,” he said.
The upswing in residents comes with an increased number of students at West Richland schools. The $35 million Leona Libby Middle School opened with the start of the 2017-18 school year. The Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, or STEAM, school is adjacent to the new city municipal services building.
Lambert said the city anticipates a new Richland School District elementary school to be built within the city limits next year, along with a remodel of Tapteal Elementary.
The new 65,000-square-foot elementary school would house about 600 students and be built near the intersection of Belmont Boulevard and Bluewood Street. It’s scheduled to open in 2019.
Richland School District voters approved a slate of construction projects and a $99 million bond in February 2017.
The city’s population has hovered around the 14,000-mark for the past three years.
The current population is 14,660, up 2.2 percent from the previous year. It boasts the highest percentage year-over-year growth rate of the Tri-Cities.
The city added 6,275 people from 2000-17, or an increase of about 75 percent.
Future road projects also will make access more efficient to West Richland, Lambert said.
“We’re especially excited about the Red Mountain interchange between West Richland and Benton City. It will provide direct access to our community from Interstate 82. It’s been long needed,” he said.
Construction of the $25.5 million interchange, which creates a new exit off I-82 and a new connection to Highway 224 east of Benton City, begins in spring 2019. It’ll provide the only direct link from the interstate to West Richland.
Commercial growth hasn’t been as substantial as residential growth in West Richland. So far, the city has granted 12 commercial building permits. The total for last year was 22.
“We don’t get a lot of commercial building applications,” Lambert said. The city’s major economic development focus includes the redevelopment of the Van Giesen corridor and continuing expansion in the wine industry.
“We recently gave occupancy to Double Canyon Winery. They’ll make fall crush this year,” Lambert said.
The winery, owned by the California-based Crimson Wine Group, broke ground on a 47,000-square-foot winemaking facility last summer and opened its doors in September 2017. The $6 million facility boasts cutting edge, automated processes to improve precision and efficiency of its anticipated start of production of 50,000 cases of wine.
“Double Canyon’s waste, along with another winery, is processed with pre-treatment by the (city’s industrial wastewater treatment) plant. It takes and processes the waste before it hits the city’s wastewater treatment facility, which adds capacity at the wastewater facility for other commercial and residential customers,” Lambert said.
The city’s $3.2 million wastewater plant, known as the I-Plant, opened in 2016 to entice wineries to the area. The plant also can treat wastewater from breweries, distilleries and creameries.
Another commercial enterprise coming to the city is SSC North America, the supercar manufacturer of the Ultimate Aero, named the world’s fastest production car in 2007. The city has issued a building permit for the facility, which will be across from the city’s new $6.3 million municipal services building.
“We’re hoping to see them break ground this year,” Lambert said. In the meantime, the city of is readying to sell its former municipal services property — about three acres and 6,000 square feet of space — at 3801 W. Van Giesen.
“We’re looking to sell our properties after we move the last department, finance, into the new building,” Lambert said. “We’re also marketing about 14 acres at the corners of Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road.” The acreage comprises three of the four corners at the intersection.
“We’re still sourcing the financing to build space for the finance department here at the new building, though the 4,000-square-foot footprint is already here,” Lambert said. The new municipal building is 14,000 square feet, and will house all municipal services, except the police department. The nearly 13,000-square-foot shop is also on the property.
“We’re all located under one roof. It’s terribly convenient during the course of the day; we don’t have to travel across town for impromptu meetings,” Lambert said.
As West Richland’s growth continues, the city is planning for more people and businesses during the next two decades.
“We certainly acknowledge that West Richland is attractive to people. We have an excellent school district, convenient access to commercial businesses with our proximity to Queensgate, and we want to make it as accessible as possible,” Lambert said. “With the recent adoption of our 20-year Comprehensive Plan, we’re planned for commercial, industrial and residential growth through 2037.”
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