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Billboard gets Board of Adjustment's OK

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Bruce Chandler

With a 3-1 vote last Wednesday night, the Sunnyside Board of Adjustment approved a 20x8 billboard to be constructed on South First Street. The group also decided, unanimously, to wait until December to decide on a variance request for a garage on Decatur Avenue.

Prosser resident Tom Paul, who owns a triangular piece of property along South First Street, made the request for a conditional use permit, which would allow for the replacement of the existing billboard.

City staff suggested the request be denied until a later time, because the exact width of the roadway, which is expected to undergo a major overhaul, is unknown.

City Attorney Mark Kunkler said the staff suggested denying the request until construction plans for South First Street are completed.

Paul submitted the request to replace an off-premises advertising billboard on South First Street in September. He said at the time he was under the impression that a decision on how wide the street would be would be made by the end of October.

A billboard has been on Paul's property for the past 13 years.

Paul said he has had a history of unsavory dealings with the city of Sunnyside dating back 25 years, when he wanted to build a greenhouse at the same location. He said the city had intentions of widening the street then and didn't approve a building permit for the greenhouse. The street was never widened.

He added that the city wanted him to add extras to the greenhouse that would have cost him $40,000 more than the original plan. The issue went to court and Paul won, he told the Board of Adjustment members. He added that he was most instrumental in not having improvements done to the street 25 years ago and was willing to do it again.

Paul said while waiting for the city to make a decision on whether or not he can reconstruct a billboard, he has had advertisers lined up to advertise on the sign. He added that every month he has to wait for the city he loses income.

"It's like taking part of your income and giving it to the city or throwing it away," said Paul, who added that he could lose some of his advertisers because of the wait.

Paul, who has two road plan blueprints for South First Street, said that he doesn't want to put the sign in the way of the street upgrade. He said if the billboard ends up in the way of the road it will only cost the city about $1,000 to move it.

Juan Aguilar, Rick Berk and Craig Miller voted in favor of the sign replacement. Terrie Williard voted against the conditional use permit.

In other business, the board of adjustment members decided to hold off on approving a variance request for a garage at 908-1/2 Decatur Avenue. The request by Jim Morrow is scheduled to be decided at a meeting Dec. 1.

Morrow requested that the board allow a garage to be built on the property line, which is in an alley.

"In this case you almost need a variance to not build on the property line," said Kunkler, explaining that all the houses in the neighborhood have garages built on the property line. The variance would also allow Morrow to build on more than 35 percent of the lot, which is the maximum in an R-2 zone.

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