The Sunnyside City Council last night contradicted the city's own hearing examiner in the zoning designation for more than 100 acres of recently annexed property.
Council took the action Monday night on 123 acres owned by Don Padelford, situated near the Sunnyside Airport between Ray Road and SR 241.
Padelford's aim was to turn the land into about 400 home lots and 20 airport hangars. A move he said later would have brought more people into wine country, both to reside in and fly into.
Others, such as Port of Sunnyside officials, have countered that dense residential zoning is not appropriate for land so close to an airport. The airport runway currently measures 3,500 feet in length and the Port hopes to see the runway expanded further and has purchased 40 acres nearby for that purpose.
FAA requirements call for a minimum buffer of 500 feet from an airport runway under 4,000 feet in length and a 1,000-foot buffer for runways longer than 4,000 feet.
Councilman Bruce Epps expressed concerns about the proximity of residential and airport uses, noting he didn't want to see the city have to "pick up the pieces," both of flights gone awry and of residents down below.
In a recommendation issued recently, Sunnyside Hearing Examiner Gary Cuillier favored a mix of light industrial, one-acre ranchettes and residential-a move consistent with City Planner Jamey Ayling's recommendations and the city's own comprehensive plan.
Even so, council says the comprehensive plan presented to Cuillier for consideration had critical changes they were not aware of.
Councilwoman Theresa Hancock said the comprehensive plan called for light industrial in the area of Padelford's property, not home sites. She said council was not informed of a comp plan change allowing for residential uses when it approved an updated version in December 2006.
City Planner Jamey Ayling admitted the document was presented and approved in a rush in order to meet state requirements.
Councilman Jim Restucci, chair of the city's airport committee, added that he recalled that meeting and said council was unhappy with the document and wanted changes made.
Hancock then suggested a motion to go ahead and zone Padelford's land for light industrial so he could have some idea of land uses. Councilwoman Carol Stone added that the move would allow Padelford to begin selling his land for business uses along SR 241.
Council approved the motion 5-0, with Councilman Bill Gant missing due to an excused absence and Councilman Tom Gehlen recusing himself because he takes care of Padelford's mother.
As part of the motion, the planning commission will consult with the Washington State Department of Transportation regarding the airport and come up with a possible airport comprehensive plan. If the further research changes possible allowable uses for Padelford's property, then Padelford would be permitted to apply for a re-zone at no cost.
Following the decision, Jay Hester with the Port of Sunnyside said the zoning approved last night was consistent with the port's view for the need in expanding the airport runway.
Noting he has been dealing with the city for more than four years regarding his property, Padelford later said the city council "might just as well resign" since it is disagreeing with the city's comprehensive plan and hearing examiner.
At least one property owner was somewhat pleased with the outcome. John Flodin owns four acres near Padelford's property, but farther away from the airport, and said he hesitantly agreed to the annexation.
Flodin, though, said he was opposed to dense residential uses as he moved out to the area to be away from the city. Council last night agreed to zone his property for one-acre home parcels or ranchettes.
Padelford said he is considering legal action. "We're going to turn it over to an attorney."