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Pullman residents say they want less sprawl, more green spaces

This Aug. 17, 2011, file photo shows the campus of Washington State University in Pullman. (Alan Berner / Seattle Times)
This Aug. 17, 2011, file photo shows the campus of Washington State University in Pullman. (Alan Berner / Seattle Times)

A majority of respondents to the Pullman Planning Commission’s series of Comprehensive Plan workshops in April preferred focusing on Pullman’s city center development – with minimal development of the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

But Planning Director Pete Dickinson said comments from the Pullman Planning Commission at its Wednesday evening meeting indicate a desire to maintain the city’s plan for an existing urban growth area while also “densifying” the community more.

Out of three possible scenarios depicting community growth the city could work toward in its Comprehensive Plan, which were provided to the public in April, a compact, higher-density scenario received the most votes with 18. That was more than the city’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan, aspects of which some members of the commission supported but which received two votes from the public. The high-density option also received more votes than a plan focusing on the Pullman-Moscow corridor, which received 10.

Commissioner Marcia Gossard, who was absent for Wednesday’s meeting, suggested the commission go with the favored option, called Scenario B, in a letter submitted to Dickinson last week.

In addition to limiting sprawl and maintaining more green space, Gossard wrote she had heard from the community desires for walkable neighborhoods and public spaces as well as town beautification. She also heard discouraging indications that Pullman is “a suburb of (Washington State University).”

Caveats listed for Scenario B included that College Hill infrastructure cannot accommodate increased density and the scenario would require more open spaces and green space to work.

College Hill Association board member Alex Hammond addressed the commission Wednesday, urging it not to allow an increase in residential density on College Hill, which he called Pullman’s area of highest residential density with the narrowest streets.

“(Scenario) B suggests you can take the College Hill core and raise the density. And we’re really concerned with that,” Hammond said.

Nine commenters particularly disliked an emphasis on high density residential areas, specifically College Hill.

Commenters were also asked what they believe are the most important growth issues Pullman is facing.

With 20 comments relating to traffic congestion, particularly in the downtown area, the topic significantly outweighed dozens of other concerns. Some suggested that other routes are needed such as bypasses of downtown.

Retaining the small town character of Pullman, encouraging “densification” to encourage pedestrian/bicycle travel and use of public transit, and providing for a sustainable water supply were other commonly mentioned issues among those responding.

Pullman Civic Trust also submitted a letter to the Planning Commission, asking that the Comprehensive Plan include a complete trail network tying the four hills of Pullman to its downtown. The letter also asks the commission to plan for neighborhood trails around the new Kamiak Elementary School.

Commissioner Bob Olsen was skeptical of Pullman’s ability to facilitate bicycle use.

“I don’t think Pullman’s ever going to become a bicycle-friendly community, no matter what we do, based on the hills,” Olsen said.