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Planning Commission votes for mini ranchette zoning for new annexation

It's a case of majority rules in the Sunnyside neighborhood bordering Saul Road and South Hill Road.

After nearly three years of discussion and delays, Wednesday night the Sunnyside Planning Commission accepted an annexation petition from the 23 petitioners in the area seeking to annex into the city limits under the mini ranchette zone designation.

It was apparent that of the 30 property owners in the area, all of the residents were interested in annexing into the city limits, but the bone of contention surrounded the zoning issue.

The mini-ranchette proponents, who chose Marvin Meyer of Saul Road as their spokesperson, encouraged the Planning Commission to zone the entire area with the rural urban designation in order to allow them to continue to live in the lifestyle they have previously enjoyed.

"We moved here to live a country lifestyle," he said. "We don't want to live in high density environment," he explained.

The Planning Commission's recommendation came after nearly 90-minutes of public testimony taken during two separate public hearings regarding the same area.

While the bulk of the property owners preferred to retain the rural style enjoyed while being residents of the county, three landowners championed R-2 or R-1 designation, which would allow them to subdivide their South Hill Road properties.

Saying the mini-ranchette designation, which calls for single family dwelling on lots of at least one acre, won't allow them to divide their South Hill Road land, Mr. and Mrs. Butler asked that they be allowed to have their property and that of the two other nearby properties be allowed to remain R-1, or at the very least, changed to R-2. The R-1 zone allows for a mix of up to nine single family dwellings on an acre lot, while R-2 allows for single family or duplex dwellings in lots up to 4,200 square feet.

However, if the Planning Commission were to patchwork in the Butlers' request, the Planning Commission could face objections from the Yakima County Boundary Review Board, cautioned Mark Kunkler, Sunnyside city attorney.

Kunkler said the R-1 and R-2 zoning designations call for high density housing, which may not be compatible with the current housing in the south Sunnyside neighborhood.

"It might be better for the Planning Commission to designate the entire area as mini-ranchette and then allow those property owners to petition the commission for conditional use permits," Kunkler suggested.

"We want to avoid a patchwork zoning pattern," said Planning Commissioner Brent Cleghorn.

He said it was his understanding that the majority of the property owners were in favor of the mini ranchette zone before the issue was tabled nearly three years ago.

"That still seems to be the zone they want to have us give the area," Cleghorn said.

The Butlers protested, saying the area's residents had not been promised a mini ranchette zone. "Isn't it possible for us to be zoned as R-1," asked Mrs. Butler.

We don't have a problem with the folks on the south side of South Hill Road and on the east side of Saul Road being zoned mini ranchette," she said.

"But we feel R-2 would be better on our side of the street," she explained.

The Planning Commission denied the Bulters' zoning request, voting in favor of designating the entire South Hill-Saul Road area as mini ranchette.

The commission's recommendation will now be forwarded to the Yakima County Boundary Review Board for its review, which is expected to take up to 45 days before being fowarded to the Sunnyside City Council for its consideration.

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