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Diocese back with revised proposal for housing development

Negotiations underway with Sunnyside

It's back to the table for the Diocese of Yakima Housing Services, which hopes to build a 51-unit housing complex for migrant workers in Sunnyside at 16th Street and Sheller Road.

Just over a year ago the city denied higher density R-3 zoning for the Diocese's initial proposal of a 51-unit development.

So the Diocese is back with a proposal for the same number of housing units, but in a different lay-out and a requested zoning change from the current R-2 to Planned Unit Development.

The Sunnyside Planning Commission was to have held a public hearing last night to consider the Diocese proposal but, due to lack of a quorum, rescheduled it to next Wednesday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in the Law and Justice Center.

While a zoning of Planned Unit Development (PUD) would provide the freedom to put just about anything on the seven-acre site, Sunnyside City Planner Jamey Ayling explained the Diocese's plan is similar to the first proposal.

The primary motivation to go from R-2 to a PUD, he added, is that it would allow the Diocese to build three and four-plex units. R-2 zoning permits housing projects no larger than duplexes.

"They're looking for the same number of units, it's just that three and four-plexes would give them more green space," Ayling said.

The new proposed lay-out would have 60 percent of the ground open for lawns, trees and park-like areas. Other amenities would include an office and a community building.

Ayling noted the perimeter of the property would have duplexes as a buffer for the interior of the project.

He said that the city has reached accord with the Diocese on other fronts related to the 51-unit plan.

Ayling said officials from the Diocese have given a verbal commitment to piping and covering the irrigation canal near the proposed development.

With a $150,000 community development block grant from the State, the Diocese will provide other improvements out to the 16th and Sheller intersection, including curb, gutter and sidewalk.

Ayling said the Diocese has also given an initial nod to a draft development agreement, which pays an additional $25,000 to Sunnyside "to defray the costs relating to traffic impacts in the vicinity of the project."

"There will likely be a traffic signal at the 16th and Sheller intersection," Ayling noted. "Especially with the new school (Sierra Vista Middle School) in the area."

Also under terms of the agreement, the Diocese pledges it will build no more than 51 housing units at the site.

The apparent cooperation between the city and the Diocese is a contrast to the brief debate just two months ago at a city council meeting when City Manager Bob Stockwell and John Probst of the Diocese differed on improvements all the way out to the intersection.

At that time, Probst said he could recall nothing in writing between the Diocese and Sunnyside which required covering the irrigation ditch all the way out to 16th and Sheller.

There is something in writing now, even though it is in draft form and still needs signatures from both the Diocese and the city.

Along with that, a recommendation from the planning commission is needed, followed by a final thumbs up from the city council before the deal is done.

Ayling and the city planning staff recommend approval of the development agreement and the rezone to Planned Unit Development.

Probst sees progress as well in the negotiations with the city.

"We basically want to work with the city to put together a plan that's more cohesive," he said. "We're working within the system to build the best project and come up with a plan that makes sense."

Probst added, "We're working through negotiations with the city and we're close to being where we need to be."

There's still the matter of a planning commission public hearing, though, and a city council meeting.

"I think we're heading in a good direction," Probst observed. "But we're not there yet."

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