A lot of people have asked me a lot of questions about the plan for the Bachtold property. Often times, my answer is:
I can’t tell you for the simple reason that I can’t tell you what I don’t know. I can’t tell you what nobody knows — you see, nothing has been proposed for development.
That’s right. Only God and Hayden Homes know what they would like to build on the Bachtold property.
Now, maybe you’ve seen a “concept plan” floating around social media. Some people claim they can tell you a lot of things from that drawing, but here’s what I can tell you for sure: You won’t find it in any of our public records on the matter, and it appears to be based on zoning rules that don’t exist. Wherever it came from, whenever it came from — that plan doesn’t make any sense given our existing residential code.
So I can’t tell you how many homes they would like to build, or what size they might be. I can’t tell you the number of future cars on the road or the number of future school kids it might bring. I can’t tell you what new infrastructure will have to be built, or how it will be paid for.
I wish I could tell you all of that. I expect answers to all of these questions, but first things first — we need to see an actual development proposal.
So while we wait for that, here’s what I can tell you.
I can tell you that we need more housing. Housing costs in Walla Walla have jumped over 50 percent in just the last 7 years. Economics 101 says that’s exactly what happens when market supply is prevented from keeping up with market demand. The more we regulate and restrict the housing market, the more expensive things will get.
I can tell you that we need more diversity of housing. We need more duplex and cottage rentals. We need smaller lot sizes and smaller homes. We need what the historic Walla Walla neighborhoods have: A diversity of housing types that can support a diversity of incomes. By eliminating our overly restrictive regulations, your City Council has paved the way for this kind of diversity to flourish once again.
I can tell you that building homes in this area is not a new idea. Believe me, having grown up off of Cottonwood Road, the Table Rock and Boulders developments weren’t exactly popular in their day, either. But just like Bachtold, these neighborhoods were squarely within the Urban Growth Area, a zone that is reserved for growth and has existed as part of the city’s growth plan for over 20 years.
I can tell you that building four units per acre (the minimum) is not very dense at all. 43,560 square feet divided four ways is 10,890 square feet. That’s less dense than the old R-96 zone. That’s less dense than the Table Rock neighborhood next door (4.14 units per acre).
I can tell you that the city employs smart, qualified engineers who understand the ins-and-outs of roads, sidewalks, flooding and stormwater. No development will occur without new sidewalks, curbs, street trees, gutters, upgraded drywells, stormwater retention ponds, etc. Our engineers are prepared to analyze the challenges that exist and provide us with potential solutions to address them.
I can tell you that this thing is far from a “done deal.” In fact, I’d call it a “nothing’s-even-been-proposed” kind of deal.
I can tell you that my votes on City Council reflect what I believe is in the best interest of our entire community. I expect to weigh the quantity, quality and diversity of the housing supply proposed for development against the forecasted impacts on traffic, schools, utilities, etc. If the cons outweigh the pros, I will vote against the proposal.
I wish I could tell you what the plan is or what the future holds for Bachtold.
I wish I could tell you how many homes, or how many cars or how much additional infrastructure. I can’t tell you that, but what I can tell you is we need more housing, we need more diversity of housing. We have found ways to support housing in this area before, and we are prepared to do it again.
Hopefully soon, we will have an actual proposal in our hands to talk about, and to start answering the questions that we all have.
Riley Clubb is an elected member of the Walla Walla City Council.