West Richland is close
to completing its purchase of the Tri-City Raceway, paving the way for a new
police station and a chance to woo future tenants to the property on the west
end of town.
City officials say
moving the police station will spur economic development on the nearly 100
acres of land off Highway 224.
“I’m using the same
philosophy at the race track site that we used at the Belmont Business
District,” said Mayor Brent Gerry. “When we purchased the lot, this was just
dirt, no utilities, no infrastructure, no nothing. By us moving out here and
becoming the anchor tenant for the Belmont Business District, we attracted the
Richland School District for a middle school, an administration building, and
we have sold three of the commercial properties for commercial development that
are on timelines to produce the product of commercial development.”
The city agreed to pay
$1.8 million for the raceway property, with $500,000 in cash at closing and the
remaining $1.3 million through a transfer of rural county capital funds.
The amount came from
Benton County’s assessed value of the property, which was far less than the
port’s recent $3 million appraisal of the property, and slightly more than the
original purchase price of $1.7 million in 2008.
“At this time, the
Port of Kennewick doesn’t have the time or the money to go forward with any
kind of investment in this property. The city of West Richland does and it will
create jobs and put businesses on the tax roll, which is desperately needed in
West Richland,” said Skip Novakovich, port commissioner, during public
discussions about the sale.
officials said the assessed value was more accurate than the appraisal due to a
lack of comparable properties in the market.
Richland will reimburse the port for up to $20,000 of port staff time and legal
costs related to the transaction and an additional 2 percent of the purchase
price, per the port’s public art policy, at closing.
The two entities will
split the closing costs 50-50. The purchase price includes 18 acre-feet of
water rights, while the port will retain remaining water rights, which commissioners
believe to be valued in excess of $500,000.
New police station
While West Richland
Police Chief Ben Majetich acknowledges most residents would prefer the police
station remain near its current spot at 3805 Van Giesen St., he said the
department has outgrown the building and the city’s growth is centered to the
west end of town.
“Where the actual
department is located is not a big deal,” Majetich said. “We’re based out of
patrol cars, so our presence will still be in the city.”
Gerry added, “Some
people ask, ‘Is it too far out?’ Well, look at where it was before. It was on
the east end of town and now it’s on the west end of town. But the difference
is, from the access point of that police station, you’re going to have Keene
Road, which is an east-west main, Van Giesen east-west, Paradise, which is
going to be another east-west in the residential district, and Belmont. So
you’ve got four roads that are a very short distance from the police facility
for them to access.”
The current police
station is about 3,000 square feet, with the new one expected to be about
22,000 square feet with more space for daily operations, a larger evidence
room, training space that could double as a community meeting room and
climate-controlled kennels for animal control, among other additions and
It wasn’t possible to
build a new facility that size on the current property, so West Richland
scouted a location on Bombing Range Road near Paradise Way and Keene Road.
But after an outcry
from nearby residents concerned about the possibility of more crime, noise and
lower property values by placing a police station at that spot, Majetich said
the city dropped its effort to build there.
“It was likely that no
matter where we’d go in town, we’d face resistance,” Majetich said. Available
land was in short supply because Gerry said only three property owners in the
city limits have land of at least five acres or more, which was the minimum
needed for the station. This led to the city eyeing the 92-acre former raceway
as a potential site.
Voters passed a bond to
build the station in the spring, agreeing to an annual tax of about $42 per
$100,000 assessed property value. It’s expected to raise $12.5 million. The
station should be sufficient for the city’s needs for the next 50 years,
The police department
will take up a small percentage of the available land at the racetrack site,
leaving more than 85 acres for future development.
The raceway has been
closed since 2004, though it once had been a popular Tri-Cities landmark.
“The interest at the
race track property is incredible. Large entities have already expressed an
interest in going there. I wish we had more space because we’re going to need
it,” Majetich said. The mayor said he already has a “couple birds in hand” for
the property as well. The city is going through its 45-day due diligence to
confirm the property is as represented before it closes on the purchase, and
then the sky’s the limit.
“With the city
retaining the rights of the port’s master plan for the property, we can certainly
retain that vision to the development of the property,” Gerry said. “A lot of
that is going to be driven by the wine industry.”
Gerry said the city’s
ability to treat wine waste will be an attractive incentive.
Gerry said jobs that
have workers on the clock during daylight hours are key to additional future
economic development. He believes this drives retail sales tax opportunities
currently leaving the city each day.
“We have 80 percent
leakage of the sales tax. It is important to provide properties that the city
can take advantage of,” he said.
Gerry also is
bolstered by plans for a new housing development in the city, The Heights at
Red Mountain Ranch that’s expected to break ground on 100 homes this fall and
result in nearly 600 homes when it’s built out.
Over the past three
years, West Richland averaged about 82 new single-family homes each year.
“Rooftops, daytime car count and daytime jobs are going to be the economic
driver for this community,” said the mayor.
Old city complex
Only the West Richland
branch of the Mid-Columbia Libraries is expected to remain as a tenant at the
old city government campus on Van Giesen Street once the police station is
The former public
works facility has already been sold and Gerry said there are other offers for
the vacant buildings and the police station, requiring city council to review
the purchase and sale agreements.
“It looks like very
soon we’ll have those sold,” he said.
At least one of the
properties has been bought by a developer, who also bought nearby property from
a private land owner with larger plans for the site.
The city had gone
under contract with the former City Hall facility, but a tenant didn’t
materialize so it was placed back on the market.
“We don’t sell
property just to sell property,” Gerry said. “There’s a timeline once the
property is sold that the commercial business has to take the permit out and
construct a facility and if they do not meet that criteria, we have the ability
to purchase the property back at the same price.”
Gerry considers this a
smart business practice and expects similar success at the racetrack site to
capitalize on the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area and market to the
wine industry, especially since the land has been undeveloped for so long.
property that’s desirable for commercial and it looks like it’s going to
happen,” Gerry said. “It’s an opportunity to better our community. The buzz is
out there. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.”
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