PULLMAN — Discussions of a potential moratorium on new downtown Pullman construction were halted Tuesday when the Pullman City Council did not draft language needed for a vote on the issue.

During Tuesday’s public meeting, residents and city councilors spoke in favor and against a six-month moratorium on new construction in the central business district that includes Main Street, part of Grand Avenue, Paradise Street, Olsen Street and Kamiak Street.

The discussion stems from the city’s decision to hire BDS, a consultant that will craft a downtown master plan intended to help the city improve the appeal and function of the downtown business district. BDS was hired at a cost of $122,800.

Councilor Al Sorensen has encouraged the city to consider halting new construction until the master plan is completed in January. The council on Tuesday could have approved drafting the moratorium language. However, no one other than Sorensen was in favor of moving forward with it.

Six residents who spoke in favor of the moratorium agreed that it is in Pullman’s best interest to wait for the master plan recommendations before any new buildings are constructed. Lisa Carloye said the city will benefit from having a planned downtown that has a vision for its future.

Three people spoke against a moratorium. Allison Fisher said a moratorium seems unnecessary because there is no new construction immediately planned for that area. She was also concerned it might send the message that Pullman is anti-development.

Councilor Nathan Weller said he believes a moratorium would send a bad message to developers interested in building in Pullman.

“They hear moratorium ... and developers are going to say, ‘You know what? Pullman is closed for business,’ “ Weller said.

Sorensen said developers want to know what cities want before they begin their projects, and his goal with the moratorium is to avoid having “large concrete-only type buildings downtown.”

In other business, the council gave the city approval to accept a bid of nearly $7 million from Quality Contractors to begin relocating city hall to the former Encounter Ministries property at 190 S.E. Crestview Drive.

Early bids from contractors have come in as high as 19 percent more than the city’s nearly $6 million estimate, according to a memo sent to the Pullman City Council by Pullman Public Works Director Kevin Gardes and Finance Director Mike Urban. The deficit will be paid for using the city’s public works reserve fund.

The city hall relocation is being funded by a $10.5 million voter-approved bond.

According to city documents, Design West Architects in Pullman blamed the higher costs on the relocation beginning a year later than expected, a significant increase in the cost of materials and labor, and because the scope of the project grew since the original cost estimate was made.

Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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