Adopting design standards for College Hill neighborhood draws strong opinions

PULLMAN, WA - For years, Pullman's city council and planning commission has debated about adopting a set of design standards for the College Hill Core neighborhood in order to improve the appearance of the area, preserve its historic feel, and increase property values.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why some support the idea, and others strongly oppose it.

Pullman's College Hill core is a densely-populated area that houses mainly Washington State University students. But the idea of setting design standards for the neighborhood is a controversial topic for the entire Pullman community.

"There has been a fair amount of criticism," said Pullman Planning Director Pete Dickenson.

Tuesday night, members of Pullman's Planning Commission explained why they're divided on the issue.

"Every city of merit has design standards of some form," said Planning Commission Chair Garren Shannon.

Shannon said he thinks the standards are a necessity. He said it's the property owners who are resisting the regulations.

"We have a lot of folks who have vested interest in the process," said Shannon.

Property Owner and Planning Commission member Marcus Crossler is one of those people.

"In my opinion, these rules are just one more obstacle that the homeowner has to maneuver through to maintain the property, or to buy," said Crossler.

Other property owners shared similar opinions during Tuesday night's public hearing.

"What is the character of the neighborhood, what are you supposed to emulate?" said Pullman Resident Anita Holenback.

"You're affecting people's ability to potentially change their properties in the future," said Pullman Property Owner Michael Gordon. "And I think that that's a problem from a private property rights standpoint."

But many people, including College Hill residents and WSU students showed their support for design standards.

"If nobody cared about it, we wouldn't be here," said Pullman Resident Bob Cady. "There's a lot of money invested, there's a lot of emotions invested."

"We as a family living on College Hill strongly support these design standards," said Pullman resident Jim Peters.

"There's real character there, and it should be preserved," said WSU Student Kevin Ketcham. "I think that's something that a college town needs to have, especially one like Pullman that's so centered around the university."

After a lengthy public hearing, the majority of the council agreed to send the issue back to the planning commission.

"I think that having taken it this far, we owe it to ourselves," said Pullman City Council Member Pat Wright.

Now, the planning commission will have to draft a set of design standards for the council's review later this year.

The design standards could regulate things like sidewalks, roofs, siding, and parking. But it'd be restricted to the College Hill core neighborhood, which is bordered by Grand Avenue, Main Street, and Stadium Way.