Recently, the Sunnyside City Council approved the Yakima Diocese's plan to build a complex that will relieve some of the housing pressures in Sunnyside.
I know there are several neighbors in the area where the low income housing is to be built who are against the development, but I also live near the area the development will be built.
For the past several years different groups have been attempting to better the housing situation in Sunnyside and the Lower Valley. The Salvation Army has developed a transitional housing center, which has a lengthy waiting list, to help the "functionally homeless" in our community.
Someone may have a roof over their head and still be functionally homeless. The term is one referring to people living in overcrowded conditions and homes that are dilapidated.
The problem is, where do the people go once their six months in the transitional center is over?
Although I believe in home ownership and that it is the final goal, most people can't just whip out a down payment for a house. Nice apartment housing, as proposed by the Diocese, by a group that has a good track record is a positive for Sunnyside. I've seen the townhouses the Diocese has built in Mabton, Mattawa and other communities and they are some of the best looking rental units in the area.
Through the process of approving the development the one thing that concerned me is the questions that were raised about the appearance of fairness during the public hearings. One council member's ability to fairly hear the public hearing was questioned repeatedly because of her association with the Diocese.
I never really understood the objection.
Every member of the city council has their own affiliations, whether it's to a church or community group that could be brought up at any public meeting.
Just because someone formerly worked for a group, in this instance an area that focused on education, not the housing efforts of the Lower Valley, doesn't mean that they can not fairly preside over a public hearing.
What about rental property? Are there any of the city council members who own rentals in the Lower Valley? I would think that would have more of a bearing than someone's former employment or church affiliation. A landlord who is a Council member could stand to gain or lose with a decision by the council.
Where does it end? Will those who are sitting on the council not be able to sit in on public hearings of people known to them? We live in a small town. If that were to happen, in some cases no one would be able to hear a public hearing.
What about church affiliations? Would church building plans or church members' development ideas be put to a stop due to a lack of quorum because they attend the same church as several members of the council, planning commission or board of adjustment?
I think that the council needs to seriously think about how far they want to take the appearance of fairness clause. Just because someone doesn't agree with another council member's standpoint doesn't mean they can't fairly take testimony and make a decision in a public hearing.
Everyone has an opinion on a subject, and the citizens of the community selected council members knowing those biases.