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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Pullman City Council holds first meeting of the year

The council approves zone qualification to commercial use, schedules special meeting for Project Downtown Pullman
Council member Pat Wright laughs as Mayor Francis Benjamin addresses the public during a City Council meeting, Jan. 9, in Pullman, Wash.

Pullman City Council held their first meeting of the year, as well as their first without Glenn Johnson as mayor in 20 years.

Mayor Francis Benjamin began the meeting at 7 p.m. Benjamin said last Tuesday was the last day to apply for the vacant City Council ward 1 position. A celebration for former Mayor Glenn Johnson will be held Friday.

Continuing to public work, Benjamin said he acknowledges the current weather conditions and there was a good chance of snow in the future. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the city’s snow and ice control operation routes and priority streets, by going to

Benjamin said on a personal note he thanked all those involved with the mayoral transition.

“I’m really proud to be mayor and thank you for all your work in this transition,” he said.

Moving on, Benjamin began the confirmation of appointments to boards and committees, of which there were eight. All of the appointments were confirmed by the council. Next on the agenda was a presentation from Benjamin where he reviewed the code of conduct for the city council, particularly the newer members.

The council considered the regular agenda. Community Development Director RJ Lott brought forward a change to the construction code, which currently does not send appeals to the hearing examiner to hear them. This change would send the appeals to the hearing examiner

“Currently, any appeals to the construction code goes to the construction board of appeals,” Lott said. “This is a much quicker, easier way to serve the community by the hearing examiner.”

Lott said the hearing examiner position was created in 2022 and is a knowledgeable land use attorney who has been under contract since creation. There are currently no pending appeals of the construction code, so this will apply to any appeals moving forward.

The motion was passed by the council. Lott then moved on to the next ordinance, which amends a zone qualification from R4 high-density residential to C3 general commercial for approximately 2130 sq feet located at the intersection of NE Terre Drive and NE Northwood Drive. 

“This is the northwest corner of the newer roundabout installed about a year and a half ago,” Lott said. “The applicant has not indicated a future intended use of this location.”

Lott said a public hearing was held on this item on Nov. 29, where a written letter by the College Hill association was read in support of this zone change. The planning commission voted unanimously to bring this motion to the city council.

When asked, Lott confirmed there is nothing in the current C3 area and said he presumed it is a good location for commercial area and there is no intention to develop it as a residential area, which is why the change is wanted in the first place.

Multiple members of the council expressed a desire to see the land used for a beneficial purpose to the community, such as a grocery store or a restaurant. Councilmember Pat Wright asked Lott what C3 designates and the kind of enterprises that would fit into that category. Lott said it denotes both large-scale and small-scale businesses, but by scale, it could probably be assumed it may be a walk-up bagel shop or something of that nature.

The council voted in favor of the resolution. Following the vote, the council considered a resolution presented by city surveyor Edward Rank-Copher concerning Sunnyside Heights subdivision 13.

Rank-Copher said the proposed subdivision is located southwest of Sunnyside Park and the developer is now ready to move forward with the final plat. The subdivision is the first of two phases within the preliminary plat of Sunnyside Heights 13.

“The proposed subdivision … has a platted area of approximately 6.4 acres,” he said.

There are 20 buildable lots that will be created from this subdivision, Rank-Copher said. In addition, the subdivisions will continue the westward expansion of Panorama Dr.

The resolution to approve the final plat of  Sunnyside Heights subdivision was passed. With that, the council moved on to discussion items.

Valerie Weaver, grants and special projects manager, discussed a grant application package for the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency grant.

Weaver said they are looking to seek funding for Advanced Metering Infrastructure, a municipal metering technology listed in the grant information as one of the eligible project types.

“Several other entities have been awarded the grant for implementing this technology,” Weaver said.

Weaver presented a graphic on how AMI works, showing that data on water usage is collected on a meter, data is encrypted and sent via a signal to a collector, the water utility receives the secure data on regular intervals and using that data they may be able to identify suspected leaks, irregular watering patterns or trends in water use.

This system is beneficial because it gives real-time water usage data to both staff and customers, customers can monitor and manage water usage and promotes water and energy conservation, Weaver said.

“Regarding the grant funding, it is a 50% cost share. The federal agency will pay up to 50% of the cost, not more,” she said. “Our portion, 50%, will be allotted by the funds that are already set on the Capital Improvement Program.”

In July 2022, it was projected the project would cost about $3.5 million and without the funding, the project will most likely be stretched out to six to seven years, as the city will pay for it itself and would have to pay for it over a number of years, Weaver said.

With the grant funding, a contractor would come in and install the devices, getting the project finished in a more timely manner, Weaver said. The city has applied for the grant previously but it was not awarded.

“We are seeking your approval,” Weaver said. “We have been working on an application to submit before the Feb. 22 deadline.”

Councilmember Ann Parks asked if they will be applying for the tier three, up to $5 million, funding group. Weaver said they are still looking at what the budget might look like, but it is possible they will be moving into that bracket, although it is believed you are not asked to apply for a certain tier.

Councilmember Eric Fejeran asked what the feedback was on the previously unsuccessful application. Weaver said she was not involved in the first application, being in the position for two months, but she believes initially it was a phased project, while this time it is city-wide instead of phasing it in, which helps with the measurement of how much water they will save.

The councilmembers then looked at new business, starting with City Administrator Mike Urban, who said over the past week or so, there have been many questions on the Project Downtown bid.

“Some of the things we have been hearing kind of manifested itself today,” Urban said. “We had the pre-bid meeting in this room at 10 a.m.”

Urban said the holidays put them back timewise and it would be hard to get it submitted by Jan. 18, which is a discussion that has been taking place and asked if this was concerning enough for the date to be moved back an extra week.

Parks asked to clarify if the proposal was to move the date from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, which Urban confirmed. Parks asked if this would have any negative impacts moving forward time-wise. Urban said there will be an unintended consequence, which is there may have to be a special meeting to award that.

Councilmember Nathan Weller asked if the city is favoring specific contractors by moving forward with this motion, which Urban said they are not. The council chose noon on Feb. 6 as the time for the special meeting.

After this, public comment was opened to the floor. Local business owner CJ Robert said she owns three businesses in downtown Pullman and wanted to discuss how Project Downtown Pullman will affect business owners.

“To think that after everything that has happened to my family and I in the last four years … After barely being able to keep my doors open, even with financial help from the government, after all of that, we continued to pound the pavement and try our best,” Robert said.

Robert said people have been lied to by the city for over three years and disowned the project. 

“For over a year, downtown business have been ignored and been merely told it’s too late to address most of our concerns because the project was already ‘at 90%.’” Robert said. “None, I repeat, none, of the the 20 plus items have been addressed to this day. I am tired of trying to save my businesses and I’m not alone in this.”

Robert asked the council to create a comprehensive plan to address traffic, parking and explores all avenues to avoid negative effects of the plan.

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About the Contributors
JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor
Josiah is a sophomore broadcast journalism and broadcast production double major. He is from Lakewood, Washington and began working for the Evergreen in Fall 2021.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.