City of College Place

College Place City Hall

Redesignation plans for Martin Air Field veered in a new direction Tuesday during a Walla Walla County commissioners hearing.

Attendees expecting to testify against a proposal to remove more than 200 acres of the Martin Field property out of the Urban Growth Area didn’t have to make a case, after all.

The original request to remove that property and redesignate its zoning was withdrawn by the time the 9:30 a.m. meeting started.

“Our purpose here has changed a little bit since I’ve heard College Place has withdrawn their application,” David Cheney, the Martin Field manager and co-owner, said to commissioners and a mostly full house in attendance.

How this will affect other steps in the process was not clear this morning. County planners were not available for comment.

College Place Mayor Harvey Crowder said via email Tuesday the original plan to remove Martin Field after 13 years in the city’s UGA came because current zoning would not allow for Cheney’s vision of a residential airfield.

“Mr. Cheney’s long-term goal was to have people be able to have a home with their aircraft,” he said. “We think that’s a fine idea, and believed the airport is an important asset for the community.

“As it’s zoned currently, industrial, an airport is not (an) allowed use, so we have a nonconforming use with no ability to expand the airport unless the zoning was changed.”

Thus the city moved to pull 216 acres out, leaving 18 on a bluff for Hayden Homes to develop through the initial proposal.

At a Dec. 5 Planning Commission meeting, Crowder said he was surprised to learn of an airport coalition formed around keeping the property within the UGA.

Cheney, 90, said Tuesday to commissioners a buyer for the property has been identified. Keeping the land in the UGA will provide access to sewer and water hookups for development.

The hearing — which also included testimony from airfield tenant Donald Bais in support of Cheney — lasted just 10 minutes.

Crowder later said the decision to withdraw the proposal came because the after further examination the city of College Place’s other proposals can achieve the residential growth areas it needs.

The hearing will be continued into January. A consultation from the state Department of Transportation is also forthcoming on the airfield.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.