An application for annexation of approximately 128 acres of land north of the Sunnyside Municipal Airport in January of 2006 will soon be given an appropriate zoning designation.
The city adopted an ordinance annexing the property last August but the Sunnyside Planning Commission was unable to make a decision on a zoning designation for the land, so a hearing was held last night by Sunnyside hearing examiner Gary Cuillier.
Cuillier noted the procedure was a little unusual because property is usually zoned before being annexed, but said after he heard testimony he would have his recommendation for the Sunnyside City Council within 10 days.
Cuillier heard three different proposals for 123 acres north of the airport.
Sunnyside City Planner Jamey Ayling testified to Cuillier that the city would like to see the 123 acres owned by Don Padelford given an R-1 zoning designation. This zoning would allow Padelford to build up to five houses per acre on the land. The property runs along the northern border of the airport and along this line Padelford's property would be zoned URA, or urban residential agriculture. The way the zoning is proposed the URA along the southern edge would require at least one-acre lots and a restriction would be placed on building within 500 feet of the airport property, creating a safety zone.
Ayling said Padelford at first wanted an R-2 classification, which would have allowed more houses, but the city didn't feel comfortable with that.
Cuillier asked Ayling what the city thought of the compatibility with the airport if the land was zoned R-1 and Ayling said the city would not have recommended the zoning if it wasn't comfortable with the compatibility.
Padelford told Cuillier what he has planned will not hurt the airport in any way, but help it immensely.
He was responding to a letter from Kerri Woehler, aviation planner for WSDOT Aviation. In the letter she outlined her concerns that when housing is built close to a small airport, home buyers will start to complain about the noise. The airport will either have to buy up the surrounding land or close up shop.
Padelford said he would attach a conveyance to any deed stating there will be some noise from the airport from time to time and that anyone who bought land there would be aware of it.
He added he has lived next to the airport and doesn't mind the noise at all. He envisions selling the land to builders who would want to have a house and a hangar close to the airport.
John Flodin, who owns four acres next to Padelford's property said he doesn't want to become part of the city but realizes he doesn't have a choice with the way the boundaries are set up. He said he would like to see Padelford's property given an URA classification, which would allow for only one house to be built per acre.
He doesn't want the airport to go away but, he said, he doesn't want to see apartments in the area either. An R-1 classification doesn't allow for apartments but eventually 615 houses could be built on Padelford's property and then things could change. His feeling is apartments and low-income housing will bring crime to the area and reduce property values.
Amber Hansen, manager of the Port of Sunnyside, said the port is against an R-1 classification, saying history has shown when housing is built next to small airports, they go away.
She told Cuillier the port has a clear mandate to improve economic development in the city of Sunnyside and considers the airport to be a very important resource.
She urged Cuillier to not recommend an R-1 zoning classification, saying she doesn't believe it would be compatible with the airport. She did say the port wouldn't object if the land was designated "airport dependent." This would mean buildings would have to be dependent on the airport in order to be built.
Cuillier admitted the situation over the zoning was difficult, with competing interests involved. He acknowledged that landowners can't be hampered when trying to build on their land but also noted the genuine concerns for the airport facility.
His recommendation will be given to the city council within 10 days and the council will vote on what classification to give the land.