WEST RICHLAND, Wash.- A group of West Richland citizens are concerned that after three lots in their neighborhood were rezoned from residential to commercial, the nearby park could be next.
The West Richland Citizens For Smart Growth unsuccessfully tried to sway the city council to vote against the rezoning of three residential lots next to Flat Top Park from residential to commercial. They've filed an appeal, but if it fails, they're afraid what could happen to the park next.
"This isn't just a group of disgruntled neighbors that are upset with the rezone in their neighborhood," said Jon Swanson from the Citizens For Smart Growth. "We're literally taking this to a citywide effort so that the people can have a say in how we develop the city."
The neighbors have decided to file an appeal with the Benton County Superior Court.
"We feel that the rezone of the lots across from Flat Top Park is just the first step in commercializing that property," said Swanson.
NBC Right Now reached out to several city officials today who refused to speak on camera due to current legal action. What they were able to tell us off camera is that while the park will not be developed, the parking lot is a different story.
"They would like to say 'we're going to save Flat Top Park, we're going to leave it alone', sure they are, but they're going to surround it with multi-story commercial buildings," explained Swanson.
The group of citizens points to plans that were shown at a city council meeting in 2011 about a project called Van Giesen Corridor Renaissance. Developers sketched out plans to transform parts of West Richland, including the parking lot for Flat Top Park into multi story commercial buildings.
"'We have no plans to commercialize the property around Flat Top Park', then why did we spend all this money hiring a consultant and architects to give us the drawings and plans to do otherwise?" said Swanson.
Nicole Stickney, the interim planning and economic development manager told us today that while the city did look at plans for different options and scenarios for development projects, they are not currently considering development at the park.