When Ruth and I moved to Pullman on Halloween, 1972, we were very impressed highways entering and leaving the city – north, south, east and west – were not cluttered by strips of businesses.
The city has done well in containing development instead of letting it sprawl all over Whitman County, clogging up highways; but it has not done so well internally.
There remains the everlasting threat Whitman County commissioners will bollix planning with poorly designed expansion of the Pullman-Moscow Corridor District along the Pullman-Moscow highway.
Palouse Commercial Real Estate’s Shelley Bennett said (Daily News, July 16) that 7,500 people from Latah County travel the highway every day to get to Whitman County.
Unanswered in the news story is how many Whitman County folks travel the highway every day, and – more importantly – how St. John Hardware & Implement is going to put large, slow-moving field equipment on the highway, clogging up commuter and shopper traffic.
I’m about as pro-agriculture as one can get. I’m also pro-business, although there likely are many in the community who might contest that assertion on grounds they think me to be anti-poor business.
St. John Hardware & Implement simply does not belong in the Pullman-Moscow Corridor District and code amply points that out. For the business to locate there requires a conditional use permit, the issuance of which would effectively bypass the zoning code.
Location of a business such as St. John Hardware & Implement there is exactly what the code wisely forbids.
Cutting 10-acre parcels from the 268-acre site almost certainly will require multiple ingress/outgress driveways, further disrupting highway traffic as other exceptions to the code are made.
Developing the entire parcel is less onerous because it would – or should – involve a frontage road.
Growth is good, or at least can be; but growth also can be bad.
Zoning and building codes also can be well administered, but that requires adherence to the intent of the code, while permitting minor adjustments that impose unreasonable cost on builders while still protecting the public interest.
There have been harmful conditional-use permits issued by Pullman authorities in recent years.
Evolve on Main in one. It is my understanding that at least two conditional-use permits failed to protect the public interest.
The larger problem was permitting fewer parking spaces than should have been provided for the number of apartments. The result is about 30 cars parked on the west side of SE Spring Street. Before Evolve, there usually were four or five.
The other affront to the public interest was allowing Evolve to narrow the sidewalk southeast of the building, along the diagonal section of SE Paradise that runs northeast to Main.
That sidewalk is too narrow for comfort with cars, buses and semi-trucks whizzing past pedestrians, especially if they are walking two or three abreast or passing an oncoming baby carriage.
Paradise Creek Brewery on SE Paradise Street is the second example of a conditional-use permit got wrong. The city has allowed the brewery to remove precious parking spaces on the south side of the street and convert the space to an asphalt beer garden extending to the curb. Parking slots gone. Pedestrians pushed into the street.
To be sure, I approve of conditional-use permits that help property owners develop property; but not at the expense of public interest.
These examples are not as bad as the St. John Hardware & Implement request for a conditional-use permit to develop 10 acres, impacting rush-hour commuter traffic flow on the Pullman-Moscow highway.
Development that flies in the face of the public good should not be justified in the name of growth or progress.
Terence Day is a journalist and retired Washington State University faculty member.He welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org