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Commissioners say no to residential annexation

After an hour of hearing objections Wednesday night to a proposed Factory Road area annexation request, the Sunnyside Planning Commission rejected the property owners' R-2 zoning request following a public hearing to take testimony regarding the proposal.

However, the commissioners did approve annexing the property, currently owned by the Bonny family and John Newhouse.

Heeding the concerns of the area residents living near the proposed annexation, which includes a total of 45.9 acres at the north corner of Factory Road and Highway 241, the commissioners voted to recommend the area be zoned M-1, making the area suitable for light industrial uses, but not for residential uses.

The Bonny family had sought to have the area included within the city limits with an R-2 zoning, which allows for high density housing developments.

The property owners presented the commissioners with a proposal from AHO Construction, which is currently working on a similar housing complex on the Sunnyside-Mabton Highway in south Sunnyside.

The Vancouver-based company is suggesting putting an additional 189 low income housing units at the corner of SR-241 and Factory Road, a proposal which drew the objections of more than 15 persons who attended Wednesday night's public hearing. Many of the area's residents fear the loss of their current country living style if a housing development is allowed to be located in their neighborhood.

Among those voicing their objections to the annexation was Mark Zieske, who lives near the intersection of SR-241 and Factory Road.

"We bought our home out there because it wasn't a very populated area," said Zieske.

He also voiced concern that a heavy residential area would have serious impact on the already busy state highway. "I think increased traffic in that area will be a dangerous issue if the area is turned into a residential area," he said.

Also objecting to the proposed residential zoning were nearby residents David and Susan Downing, who live on Factory Road.

"We purchased our place on Factory 11 years ago, in order to live in the country," said Mr. Downing. "I think if 189 houses are built in that area, there will be a big plug of traffic on a road," he adding, noting that the area is already the scene of many accidents caused by trucks unable to make the corner at Factory and SR-241.

Downing advocated that the area under consideration stay in the county and the area across the road remain with its current light industrial use zoning.

"We don't want to live in the city. It sounds to me that with the proposed construction of 189 houses, the area will look a lot like a trailer park," he added.

"I'm against it (the annexation)," he added.

His wife, Susan, was even more adamant about the dangers of having so many houses in that area. "It tears me apart to think my neighborhood could be riddled in this fashion," she said.

Currently, industrial and light manufacturing type businesses, such as Valley Truck Repair and Star Manufacturing, are located near the intersection.

Planning Commissioner Barry Weaver also spoke against the annexation proposal proceeding with an R-2 zoning designation, saying the suggestion goes against what the commission is trying to accomplish with its urban growth plan.

"Having that area turned into a heavy residential area makes no sense," he said. "It just doesn't fit."

Weaver said the commission is attempting to keep the Factory Road area in question restricted to commercial or at least light industrial.

"Heavy residential is not what we are looking for in that area," he said.

While the city planning department has recommended that the Planning Commission approve the annexation with an R-2 zoning designation, the ultimate recommendation for the zoning of the area is left in the hands of the commissioners, said City Attorney Mark Kunkler.

Kunkler suggested the commission approve the annexation request, but attach an M-1 zoning recommendation to the proposal.

Commissioner Ken Bierlink made the motion to reject the annexation proposal if the R-2 designation was attached to the Bonnys' petition. He then recommended the area be annexed with an M-1 zoning designation, a motion which received the approval of the other commissioners. The M-1 zoning designation allows for light industrial uses, as being more in keeping with the businesses already established in the area.

The commissioners' recommendations will now be forwarded to the County Boundary Review Road before coming back to the Sunnyside City Council for more public hearings and its consideration.

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