Two parcels of property located at the Sunnyside intersection of Factory Road and Highway 241 won't be annexed into the city, based on a decision made last night by the local planning commission. The commissioners didn't agree with the proposed zoning for the lion's portion of the annexation.
The Bonny family, which owns about 39 acres of property on the northeast corner of Factory Road and Highway 241, was the main petitioner in the annexation. The family currently has earnest money for the purchase of the land from Aho Construction in the Tri-Cities, according to Tom Arrowsmith, an Aho spokesperson.
The Bonnys were seeking an R-2 medium density residential zone for the property.
Also part of the annexation request is John Newhouse, who owns a six-acre parcel of land on the northwest corner of Factory Road and Highway 241. Newhouse sought a commercial or industrial zoning designation.
A third property owned by Mark Zieske would most likely be forced into the city if the annexation were to be approved, said city attorney Mark Kunkler. Zieske's land is north of the Newhouse property and would be surrounded by annexed land.
According to Kunkler, the Bonnys are seeking an R-2 zoning designation so Aho Construction can be flexible on the home sizes built on the land. The lot sizes would meet the R-1, low density residential standard, said Kunkler. He said the project would have approximately 1 to 5 homes per acre, a rough estimate that doesn't include roads or green space.
Arrowsmith said Aho Construction has a variety of housing plans, ranging from 1,080 square feet to 2,502 square foot homes, adding that they would like to be able to build a variety of homes on the property.
Zieske addressed the commissioners, saying he is 100 percent against the annexation.
"If I wanted to live in a parking lot I would," he said.
He said he wants to stay a resident of the county.
"I moved there to get away from most things," he said.
A self-employed sign maker, Zieske said he enjoys looking out his windows and seeing pasture. The pasture is the land belonging to the Bonny family.
David Downing, a resident of Factory Road, also opposes the annexation and zoning.
"We moved from the city out there so we can enjoy some country living," said Downing.
His concern was that people hunt the properties adjoining the Bonnys' land. He added that there doesn't seem to be enough room to widen the intersection of Factory Road and Highway 241, a location were many accidents have occurred.
Downing added that he believes property values will go down with a development on the Bonnys' land.
Lawrence Dolan, a farmer on Factory Road, said that buffer zones concern him, as does protecting the Sunnyside airport.
"If you let one development start there you're one development away from our airport," he said.
Arrowsmith said that if approved, the development company will be required to do a traffic study and make any needed changes to the road. He added that when it comes to abutting agricultural uses, in other communities his company has been required to put up a fence to separate residences and agriculture.
"Those fences don't stop spray from drifting and rarely do they stop animals from coming onto agriculture property," said Chuck Rollinger.
Planning Commissioner Barry Weaver questioned why the city staff would recommend this proposal, which doesn't fit in with nearby uses.
Kunkler said the city of Sunnyside is in a time of growth. In the past the city has gone a decade without a new housing development. He said city staff has noticed a shortage of housing in the community.
Several developers have shown interest in building in Sunnyside, because they also recognize the housing need, said Kunkler. City staff is seeing all the interest in developing on the outskirts of town where the parcels are larger. He explained that large developers want to be able to create neighborhoods, but there are very few large plots of land available within the city limits.
"The lack of available large chunks of land in the city plays into the staff's recommendation," said Kunkler. He added there is a need for a solid inventory of large plots for housing developments closer to town.
Kunkler said the annexation is the first step in a long process that includes site plan approval and the long subdivision plan.
Commissioner Jim Warren pointed out that the development would be surrounded by commercial and light industrial property, which he felt didn't mesh well with a housing development.
"I'd have a tough time myself seeking a housing project out there," he said.
Weaver also had a difficult time seeing the property as a housing development, but said he had no disagreement with the annexation request.
"I'm really struggling with this," he said. "If they don't get R-2, what do they want?"
In the end the planning commissioners voted 5-1 to deny the annexation request. Commissioner Ken Bierlink cast the lone vote for the development.
Later in the meeting, Bierlink said he understands that big development opportunities don't come around that often.
"It would behoove us to make certain pieces of property available for that," he said.