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City council approves residential landscape ordinance for Sunnyside

With a divided 5-2 vote, the Sunnyside City Council last night approved a much-debated residential landscape ordinance.

The decision was reached after repeated public hearings before both council and the planning commission.

As with the previous city council meeting, in which council gave a tentative nod to draw up a resolution for approval, council members Bruce Epps and Carol Stone voted against the landscape measure.

Epps said property owners should be able to do whatever they want with their land.

Though he voted for the ordinance, Council member Paul Garcia questioned language that requires current residential property owners to maintain their landscaping as originally installed or as improved from time to time.

The language further states, "In no case may a property owner remove existing landscaping unless it is replaced in an equivalent or better manner."

Garcia said that part of the ordinance seemed "kind of harsh" and "rather restrictive."

City Manager Bob Stockwell said that particular wording was used because of one instance when a resident removed all the landscaping from their front yard and replaced it with concrete.

Elsewhere in the ordinance, wording was changed to make it clear that measures requiring underground sprinkler systems apply only to new home construction or remodels that increase the assessed property value by more than 50 percent.

Councilman Bill Gant felt that most of Sunnyside's residents will not be impacted by the ordinance.

"We need something in hand to deal with the 5 to 10 percent of the public that need to be led by the hand," Gant said. "I think 90 percent of the people in the city won't be affected (by the ordinance).

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