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Sunnyside halts zone changes near airport

Landowners with property near the Sunnyside Airport are going to have to wait on any zoning changes.

That's the result of a decision by the Sunnyside City Council last night, Monday, in approving an emergency moratorium on even accepting applications related to zoning requests near the airport.

The action means those who have any portion of their property sitting within 500 feet of the airport's avigation easement (essentially space designated for planes to fly in and out of the runway) will not be able to change the zoning of their property.

Those with a residential zoning in place, for example, can go ahead and build, said City Attorney Mark Kunkler, but those wishing to re-zone their properties for residential or any other uses other than their current designation will have to wait.

The issue cropped up first when property owner Don Padelford, whose land was annexed into the city last year, sought a residential zoning for his property in order to build homes. After a conflict including the city's comprehensive plan, the city council and a city hearing examiner, Sunnyside eventually decided to wait on any action until the planning commission came up with a comprehensive land use plan for the airport.

Padelford has since taken legal action against the city.

According to last night's emergency policy, the zoning of Padelford's land will for now revert to the industrial use the city said the land had before it was annexed.

Kunkler later said last night's decision was made after other landowners also began seeking to have their properties rezoned. "It was easier to deal with one large land owner," he said, then added that when other property owners began seeking zoning changes the city decided it would be easier to wait on all of them until an airport land use plan is in place.

That wait could be up to six months, as the moratorium is in effect until March 6, 2009.

More than 130 properties are impacted, ranging from residences to dairy farmers (the Veiga Dairy) to commercial businesses (Canam), and includes property owned by the city and the Port of Sunnyside.

City Manager Eric Swansen said the city will try to take action on the airport and get the moratorium lifted well before the March timeline.

The city has set a public hearing for Monday, Oct. 27, during that night's regular council meeting to gather public comment on the moratorium.

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