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Landscaping ordinance resurfaces

Planning commission to meet Feb. 11 to discuss controversial proposal

An informational report from Sunnyside Community and Planning Director Pete Squires at Monday night's Sunnyside City Council meeting managed to draw all kinds of perspectives on a proposed landscaping ordinance.

Squires told the Council the city's planning commission has held three public hearings on the landscaping ordinance, receiving a variety of comments. A majority of the comments, said Squires, dealt with concerns about the cost of implementing and maintaining the landscaping program. Squires added other comments were from people who simply don't like being told they have to adhere to landscaping requirements.

At this time, Squires and the planning commission are working on minimizing the requirements of the landscaping ordinance, but still have it remain meaningful.

There has also been talk, said Squires, about modifying the Port of Sunnyside's industrial landscaping requirements.

Squires informed the Council the planning commission is in the process of updating the city's comprehensive plan. Part of the discussion associated with updating the comprehensive plan has dealt with the landscaping ordinance. Squires said the planning commission is looking at putting in place landscaping requirements by districts, meaning there would be certain areas in town that would have to meet certain landscaping obligations.

Squires said there hasn't been a certain direction that he has opted to go with yet. The planning commission will be meeting Feb. 11. to further discuss the landscaping ordinance.

Councilman Bruce Ricks asked about a point Squires made in his written report to Council about Port of Sunnyside and Sunnyside Inc. representatives being opposed to the landscaping ordinance. Squires said there were people at each of the meetings known to be affiliated with the two agencies, but it wasn't clear if they were representing either the Port or Sunnyside Inc.

Ricks was also curious about how close the Port's industrial landscaping ordinance is to what Squires is proposing. Squires said the two are very similar. Ricks then asked if the two plans are similar why would any Port officials be against what the city is proposing. Ricks said he would like to see the city move forward immediately with implementing some sort of landscaping requirement.

"We need it," said Ricks. "Do nothing is not acceptable."

Ricks added he was disappointed that the city hasn't been able to put a landscaping plan into place during the last couple of years. He went on to explain that he has visited a variety of communities that are attractive and appealing to the eye. Ricks, though, said they are only appealing because of requirements, such as the landscaping ordinance.

Sunnyside Inc. board member Ivan White spoke up in defense of his agency, saying representatives were on hand at each of the public meetings to provide positive commentary about the landscaping ordinance.

"We were there to say the ordinance is too complex," said White.

White said the position of Inc. was the proposed landscaping ordinance gave one city individual too much power in determining factors.

"One person in control of all that is too restrictive," said White.

White said he personally is against the landscaping ordinance, saying businesses will do what they feel is right. If what the businesses do isn't working, customers will let them know.

Ricks, though, answered back by saying the ordinance doesn't give one city employee too much power. Ricks said the public always has an open forum at City Council meetings to voice concerns.

Councilman Don Vlieger said some sort of standard need to be put in place for landscaping. Vlieger said the idea of the property maintenance facilitator wasn't wanted at first, but now is well received in the community. Vlieger was also in favor of the districting idea for implementing a landscaping ordinance.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar was also in favor of having landscaping requirements for certain areas of town, because each location is different to the community.

"I don't like the idea of having a heavy ordinance," she said.

Sunnyside Inc. Executive Director Marshall Doak wanted to clear up some confusion on the landscaping ordinance. Doak said there has been three proposals, one a 50-page document, which has been withdrawn. Another plan, by a former associate planner with the city, was also taken off the drawing board. Doak said that he and Port of Sunnyside Manager Amber Hansen met with Squires to provide input on a third proposal last summer. Doak said he hasn't heard back from Squires yet on their discussion about the proposal.

Dr. Jim Stevens shared with the Council a trip he took to Montana. He compared the landscaping at a Wal-Mart he visited in Montana to the one here in Sunnyside and said they were vastly different. Stevens said the Montata Wal-Mart store looked attractive because of the landscaping requirements in place there.

"Nice looking communities are this way because of these guidelines," said Stevens.

Stevens said he feels Sunnyside can regain its designation as the hub of the Lower Valley.

"I look at this (landscaping ordinance) as a guideline to improve," said Stevens.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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