Centralia residents oppose rezoning for golf course ownership at council meeting

By Daniel Warn / [email protected]

Several residents of the Seminary Hill area attended Tuesday’s Centralia City Council meeting to voice their opposition to the potential increased-density rezoning of the disused Armory Hills Golf Course property owned by Centralia.

The golf course property, located in a valley formed by Seminary Hill to the south and Ham Hill to the north, is currently the subject of a pending contract for sale to an undisclosed developer. The property, which is located at the end of Duffy Street in the Centralia Urban Growth Area (UGA), was listed with John L. Scott for $1.8 million.

The Centralia Planning Commission is currently discussing the option of updating the city’s master plan for the former 48.44-acre golf course and its subsequent rezoning for an allocation of two housing units per acre to eight .

The zoning change would move the 48.44-acre property from a zoning classification of R-2 to R-8 and allow the property to contain up to 387 housing units, up from 96 previously.

At the April 14 Planning Commission meeting where the idea was hatched, dozens of people voiced their opposition to the potential move. There, they were told to contact the city council over their objections after a heated back-and-forth between concerned citizens and Centralia Community Development Director Emil Pierson, who gave a presentation on the possibility of rezoning. to the commissioners.

Many concerned citizens took the commission’s advice and attended Tuesday’s city council meeting to make their voices heard.

Phoebe Slusher of the Seminary Hill area raised concerns about the road infrastructure needed to accommodate residents of the potential 387 new housing units.

“I’m here because I’m concerned about plans to build 120 homes on the golf course, and rumor has it there could be as many as 380, and even more in the area,” Slusher said. .

“Let’s say there are 120 houses,” she says. “That’s 240 cars driving past my house, going up Seminary Hill Road and down – not including the school buses that have to go down that road, the postman, the garbage, FedEx and all that. And I wonder how they’re going to widen this road because they’re going to cut down my trees (or) take some of my property that I’ve paid taxes on for the last 40, 50 years? »

Others have raised the idea that an eight-unit-per-acre development could increase flooding on China Creek or negatively affect the environment due to runoff.

A possible conflict of interest that the city could have in this matter was also raised by several people. The idea is that if Centralia rezones the property before the sale, then it would gain financially if the sale depends on the property being rezoned.

“As has been said before, this is a conflict of interest,” said Centralia resident Bruce Meyer. “There’s no way the city of Centralia can go ahead with this and be impartial,” Meyer said. “Vote ‘no’ on this rezoning, or it’s just going to turn into a long, drawn-out litigation.”

A dominant theme was the hope that the former golf course property would remain an open natural area where wildlife could continue to live and people could bring their children for recreation.

Robert Hoffman of Centralia took the opportunity to hit the city council over the rezoning he said the city planned to do with or without public approval.

“Why are we here right now? Why were we brought here for a public debate? said Hoffman. “In my opinion, this meeting is a farce and is only meant to cover your ass under the law.”

After listening to all of the comments, Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston broke with the usual norm of council by refraining from addressing concerns raised during public comments with a general address to those present.

“Thank you all for coming out and engaging your local government,” said Smith Johnston. “It may not feel like it, but you engage early in the process. That’s right now what’s happening is we’re looking at the overall plan and zoning is part of that and that’s what’s going on. is one of the possible first steps. This issue is currently with the Planning Commission. I know many of you attended the Planning Commission meeting… There will be a public hearing, I believe, on this subject at the next meeting of the Planning Commission on May 12. This is another opportunity to give your opinion.

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