After much public testimony against a 75-unit housing development at 451 East Allen Road, and without a development plan, the Sunnyside Planning Commission last night unanimously voted to deny a request to change 20 acres east of Neighborhood Assembly of God Church from B-2 zoning, general commercial, to a planned unit development (PUD).
According to Sunnyside City Attorney Mark Kunkler, who has been filling the role of city planner for the past several months, a PUD is one of the most flexible zones in the city, because once it's designated the developer can decide how to use the land.
"It's designed to include more of an area-wide development with a mix of housing and commercial," said Kunkler.
Plans for the 20-acre parcel belonging to Troy and Denise Fodor would be of a residential nature, said Kunkler.
Troy Fodor addressed the commission, saying the northern most portion of the development was earmarked for a 55 and older housing development, something he sees a need for in Sunnyside. He said that as a local member of the medical community he sees people leaving Sunnyside and moving to communities like Yakima, where there are low-maintenance developments for those entering retirement age.
Lawrence Dolan, who owns a 30-acre vineyard to the north of the Fodors' property, objected to the couple's proposal, saying he understands as the planning codes read there needs to be a buffer zone between agriculture and housing developments.
"I can understand two or three acres per house, but not a high density housing development like (the one) being proposed," said Dolan.
He said his biggest problem with the project is when there is a large housing development there undoubtedly will be kids and dogs.
"We have no defense against kids and dogs," said Dolan, explaining there isn't a fence separating neighbor's property lines.
In the past, with developments such as the one being proposed, Dolan said he has experienced kids playing in the vineyard and dogs digging holes. He added that the amount of trash currently blowing into his vineyard is too much.
Clarence Rollinger, who lives across the road from the proposed development, said easily 100 cars a day and probably more would travel down Allen Road if the development is approved.
"It's going to be very different," he added.
Rollinger said the development wouldn't be bad if Fodor decided to divide the property into two-acre plots, but he didn't feel that would recoup the investment Fodor has in the property.
Rollinger said there are plenty of other sites around town that haven't been fully developed as of yet.
"If he doesn't get it fully developed than it ruins it for farming or grazing," he added.
Joe Rollinger, who farms an 80-acre dairy near the proposed development, said his biggest problem is people don't like dairies or feedlots.
"I don't want to be bought out. I love farming and my sons do, too," he said.
With the already increased traffic on East Allen Road, the roadway is "...beat to death," said Rollinger.
"Keep the houses in town and let the farms be farms," he added.
Deanna Phillips moved to her home on East Allen Road in the 1960s to get out of the city and have some peace and quiet.
"I don't like the idea of getting all the traffic and the problems that come with it," said Phillips.
Scott Abbott, who lives in the East Allen Road area, said approving the Fodors' plans would put a housing development out by itself, something the growth management act is designed to prevent. He said the property was originally designated B-2 to create a commercial area off of the main entrance into the community.
"An increased population density will change the area from what it was designed to be," said Abbott. "It will no longer be a buffer zone, it will be city."
Chuck Rollinger, who farms 80 acres north of the Fodor property, said that an access road, which the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District maintains, is used by people now as a thru-way.
"Because it's a right-of-way people believe it's a roadway," said Rollinger, concerned that a development would increase traffic on his farmland.
"This property runs within feet of general agriculture and within a quarter mile of really general agriculture," he added.
Surprised by the opposition, Fodor said the community already has a lot of light industrial and commercial property.
"The city of Sunnyside is losing a lot of potential residents," said Fodor, who added he feels the city would benefit by keeping people in town.
Planning Commissioner Barry Weaver was concerned that a plan was not submitted with the PUD request.
Although a plan is not required, he said he feels that the PUD is so general that he would like to see a site plan when a request comes up.
"It makes sense to review a specific plan when looking at approving a PUD," said Kunkler.
Weaver added that he is also concerned about the buffer zone issue.
"We need to protect the citizens from the chemicals (farmers) have to use," said Weaver.
Another issue for Weaver is developing consistency in property use in the community.
"I would love to see Sunnyside grow, too," said Weaver. "I'd like to see it happen somewhere closer in."
He added that he personally would have a problem approving a high density development for the property, but could probably support a mini-ranchette development.
Commissioners Theresa Hancock and DeAnn Hochhalter also had concerns with the buffer zone.
Weaver motioned to deny the rezone, which was unanimously agreed upon.