Catholic Diocese's 4-plex housing proposal denied

Sunnyside Planning Commissioner Barry Weaver called a Diocese of Yakima Housing Services proposal to build 4-plexes in the city's newest annexation "appalling."

"I'm appalled by the arrogance of the Diocese to ask for a conditional use permit to build 4-plexes in an R-2 residential zone, when we clearly told them 'no' in our planning commission meetings," Weaver said.

Giving testimony at a Sunnyside Board of Adjustment public hearing held last night (Wednesday), Weaver was one of three people who voiced objections to the Diocese's request for a conditional use permit to build 4-plexes at the corner of Sheller Road and North 16th Street.

"I recommend you deny their conditional use permit," Weaver urged the board members.

Mario Villanueva of the Diocese's housing services said the Diocese has always intended to build 4-plex housing units on the Sheller Road property, saying that under Sunnyside City code, the 4-plexes are allowed under the conditional use permit scenario.

He said building 4-plexes instead of duplex housing units will be more environmentally friendly for both project residents and the surrounding neighborhoods.

"It is also a cost saving measure as we would have fewer exterior walls and would be able to put more money into using higher quality materials, providing longer life for the project," he told the Board.

The Yakima Diocese, which is seeking to build 51 housing units on the property owned by Rene and Paula Lemos and Brandon Burns, has been before the Sunnyside Planning Commission and the City Council several times during the past year seeking approval for is low income housing.

Villanueva said the Sunnyside project would look similar to the one in Mabton. The Diocese also has a similar project in Buena.

Sunnyside City Planner Jamey Ayling recommended the Board of Adjustment approve the Diocese's conditional use permit, adding a list of 12 special conditions to the his recommendation during last night's public hearing.

Ayling said the Diocese's proposal falls under city codes, but a variety of conditions were needed to made it acceptable to current city R-2 zone requirements.

His recommendations included a need for two access roads to the project, as well as such amenities as landscaping, off-street parking and curb, gutters and sidewalks along Sheller and North 16th Street surrounding the project.

But the board, listening to the objections of Weaver and several residents from the area, chose to adhere to earlier recommendations from the Planning Commission and the City Council and voted to deny the request.

The area was recently annexed into the city with a recommendation from the Planning Commission that the area be restricted to housing that reflects single family residential housing in the neighboring areas. But, the Diocese had been granted permission to construct duplexes at that location.

"We clearly indicated we want to preserve the R-2 zone and we said 'no' to the Diocese's plan to build 4-plexes in the area before. We recommended the Diocese's housing development be a duplex-style housing project," Weaver said.

"I'm frustrated the Diocese would make this request for a conditional use permit," Weaver added.

Saying the Diocese's housing services planners will now regroup, Villanueva said he was disappointed with the board's decision.

"We just weren't able to convince them of the soundness of our proposal," he said.

"We have the money to build duplexes on the property, but we just felt having the 4-plex option would be more environmentally friendly, more cost effective and in the long run, result in lower maintenance costs over the life of the project," he added.


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