Controversy over canceled Yakima annual public meeting

Controversy over canceled Yakima annual public meeting
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima City Code indicates city council shall hold a public comprehensive plan meeting every February.

It's when development plans are submitted to council for approval. The amendments typically change zoning to allow for a new type of construction.

However, this year the city decided not to hold the public meeting.

City officials tell KIMA Yakima is occupied with downtown and First Street projects. And, it didn't receive enough plan applications to justify the meeting.

"My understanding is that we're either allowed to hold it or not, that's a choice of the legislative body,” Mayor Micah Cawley said.

However, Yakima Development Committee Chair --and private developer-- Ben Shoval says that's not true.

City officials and Shoval tell KIMA the city averages 6 to 12 comprehensive plan amendments every year.

Shoval says this year is no different.

"All kinds of people are working on applications,” Shoval said. “That six to twelve didn't not magically happen this year, that’s very consistent year-to-year."

Shoval said the comprehensive plan amendments are the development committee's biggest priority. He says it gives projects of all sizes the green light to start building in Yakima.

Shoval thinks the meeting wasn't canceled because of a lack of interest. He thinks it’s political. And, questions what 2013 will look like without any new comp plan amendments.

"For the many people who are employed as plumbers, electricians, bank loan officers, real estate agents,” Shoval said. “It's a big part of our economy.”

The Mayor said Yakima does not intend to turn away business.
"If somebody says Hey, I've got some plans I want to get this in the comp plan process then we would say, ''Oh, OK let's do it,” Cawley said.

However as a result of the canceled meeting, the Mayor said new plans might not be approved until 2014.

City officials say they first decided to cancel the meeting when it learned Yakima County did as well.

The city says if it did violate city law it will decide whether to hold the meeting later this year.