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Now landscaping ordinance not a deterrent to business growth

Landscaping has long been an issue in the City of Sunnyside, an issue that for a time seemingly drug on and on.

Everyone ranging from private residents to merchants to council members have seen many versions of a city landscaping ordinance. One of the first landscaping ordinance proposals was a novel length document that detailed requirements for everyone from residents to industrial and commercial businesses.

"It generated a lot of concern," said Sunnyside Assistant City Manager Mark Kunkler, who also oversees the city's planning department.

But after many public meetings, the controversial landscaping ordinance was whittled down to a document a few pages in length dealing with standards for commercial development. The ordinance was adopted last summer by the Sunnyside City Council.

The current landscaping ordinance, which took effect July 1, 2004, is a five-page document outlining requirements for commercial properties.

Kunkler said it was important in developing a new landscaping ordinance that the community buy in to what the city was trying to do.

The purpose of the ordinance, said Kunkler, is to basically work on enhancing the esthetic appearance of commercial developments. One of the other purposes of the landscaping ordinance is to increase the compatibility between land uses and public right-of-ways by providing landscape screening, or buffers.

Under the ordinance, the Sunnyside Planning Commission has the right to modify the requirements if alternative standards will achieve equivalent results consistent with the ordinance.

The general requirement of the landscaping ordinance is that a minimum of 10 percent of a development's parking area be landscaped with healthy and well-maintained plant materials. This portion of the ordinance has 10 sub-sections outlining the types of trees and landscaping materials that can be used.

Another section in the ordinance deals with the development requirements of parking stall areas and how landscaping fits into those plans.

The ordinance also outlines the landscaping requirements for building perimeters. The spaces around the buildings must be landscaped with lawn, ground covers and shrubs.

The ordinance also has a section dealing with trees. The ordinance outlines how the trees should be of different varieties to enhance the area.

The ordinance also outlines requirements for placing trash and outdoor storage receptacles, fencing and walls, and loading and service areas. The ordinance also details the maintenance standards associated with landscaping commercial developments. One of the highlights of this section is that owners who do not maintain the landscaped area will be assessed the cost of the maintenance associated with city enforcement.

Under the ordinance, the city's property maintenance facilitator is in charge of enforcing the landscaping ordinance.

Kunkler hasn't ruled out the city adopting a residential or industrial landscaping ordinance in the future. But as of right now, he has not received any direction from the city council to do so.

"This is a topic that will probably receive some more discussion this year," said Kunkler. "It is pretty much wide open."

The logic in simplifying the landscaping ordinance was to not only help city officials with getting residents to buy into what the city is selling, but also by paring down the landscaping ordinance the city will have an opportunity to look at how successful it has been and whether the requirement should be expanded into other areas.

The ordinance obviously hasn't deterred commercial development in Sunnyside, as several businesses are preparing to set up shop in the community.

"There is a lot of development coming in (to town). It doesn't slow the developers down a bit," said Kunkler. "We have received positive feedback from developers (on the landscaping ordinance)."

One of the reasons the landscaping ordinance hasn't met much resistance, believes Kunkler, is that it is a reasonable and flexible plan.

"It is a moderate landscaping plan," said Kunkler. "It is not as strict as it is in some other communities."

Kunkler said he likes having a landscaping ordinance in place. He hopes the community will realize the benefits of such requirements and how they beautify Sunnyside.

"It is just more attractive," said Kunkler. "It (the landscaping ordinance) improves the view of the city in the eyes of new developers."

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