A divided Pullman City Council on Tuesday passed a zone change that would allow college student housing to be built near the intersection of North Grand Avenue and Albion Drive.

The council passed both a resolution and an ordinance Tuesday night to approve the zone change. Mayor Glenn Johnson provided the tie-breaking vote to pass the resolution 4-3. The ordinance passed 4-2.

The Pullman Planning Commission in December recommended the city council approve the zone change for the 25 acres of Port of Whitman County land from light industrial to R3 multi-family residential. The land is located 1,000 feet southwest of the North Grand Avenue and Albion Drive intersection.

York Acquisitions, on behalf of the Port of Whitman County, applied for the zone change. The development, called Aspen Heights, is described as a “student housing cottage type community” that would have 212 units in approximately 106 duplex-style buildings.

Pullman Planning Department staff opposed the zone change for several reasons. Among them, they said that land should be saved for future industrial developments. They also were concerned it may lead to land conflicts with the nearby residences and industrial activity. They pointed out there are other vacant properties in Pullman that could be used for high density housing, and the proposed development would add more traffic to that side of town than York Acquisition estimated.

The Planning Commission recommended the zone change anyway because it felt the project was consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. It found that the land is already adjacent to a residential zoning district.

That was the reason Johnson voted to approve the zone change.

“The overriding part for me is that it is adjacent to other R3 zoning and it makes sense in that regard,” he said.

Councilmembers Eileen Macoll, Pat Wright and Ann Parks voted against the resolution, while Al Sorensen, Brandon Chapman and Dan Records approved it. Councilmember Nathan Weller was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

City Planning Director Pete Dickinson last month said the Washington State University student population in Pullman has grown 6.2 percent in the past five years. There are currently more than 20,000 students enrolled.

Multi-family residences made up a significant portion of Pullman’s most valuable construction projects in 2019. In total, there were building permits issued for 406 apartments, which exceeds the annual average of 149.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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