Rachel Road stirs up controversy

RICHLAND, Wash. -- It's a debate that centers on a protected piece of water and the wildlife it holds -- the wetlands of Amon Creek. Although the conversation has already started, some say it's too soon to jump to conclusions.

It's a fight that's been brewing for years and is far from over. It's all about the Amon Creek Preserve and the possibility of a road right over it. The seemingly dead-end road of Rachel Road, has big plans that one group is trying to stop.

"To me it just doesn't make sense to extend this road into natural open space," said Carol Moser, to the Richland City Council on Tuesday. This week, a group of Richland residents made a plea to stop any extension of Rachel road over Amon Creek Preserve. The Amon Creek Preserve is zoned 'natural open space' that was purchased for the sole purpose to protect.

"Amon Creek is a major corridor for wildlife," said one resident at the meeting. The problem is it is also a major corridor for traffic that the city has been planning for years.

"The planning in that area is way more involved that just this one segment of road," said Pete Rogalsky, Public Works Director for Richland.

The intersections of Gage and Leslie were based upon Rachel Road's eventual construction. "All our plans suggest more people, more carsif you continue to build and not build more roads then the existing roads will have to handle a bigger load," said Rogalsky.

When the preserve was purchased several years ago, the city had already planned for Rachel Road. In fact, Rogalsky said it was a major portion of the contract. He said the city made sure they retained the rights for Rachel Road in the form of a corridor and it's written in the contract, and it's binding to this day.
The reality is, the same land owner that sold the preserve segment, owns the adjacent property. At some point, the private owner will sell the land to a developer - turning the barren landscape into a neighborhood with a need for access.

"On one level what they're asking us to do is beyond our control," said Rogalsky. The private property owner has all the pull with what happens to his land. But that doesn't mean tax payers can't demand a change in the location for Rachel Road.

"We would have to go back and change the plans," said Rogalsky, admitting if the taxpayers and council members agreed to a change, it would be his job to make it work.

Nothing was determined at the city council meeting this week over Rachel Road. Pete Rogalsky says there's no chance the city will try to expand Rachel Road in the next five years on its own.

The only reason a bridge over Amon Creek would be built in the near future, is if the land owner sells and development begins.