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Airport extension plan troubles planning commissioner

The Sunnyside Planning Commission will hold a special meeting next Tuesday, April 21, and Planning Commission Chair Brent Cleghorn wants to see a full house.

"It's important for people to come and speak their mind," Cleghorn said of the public hearing on the airport overlay zoning plan to be held at 7 p.m. in the Law and Justice Center.

Cleghorn says he doesn't necessarily have an issue with the need to improve the airport or eventually extend the runway from 3,600 to 4,000 feet. According to city staff, the federally funded project would facilitate medical flights and make it possible for private corporate planes to land here.

The concern, Cleghorn said, is the potential for restrictive zoning within the overlay district. An overlay plan is an FAA requirement for its grant programs. The state's Department of Transportation has recommended guidelines, but cities are able to establish their own individual land uses and restrictions within the overlay.

Of particular concern, he says, is zone six in the overlay plan, which extends out about a mile from the airport. According to documentation from city staff, zone six's coverage area extends out to Yakima Valley Highway and includes schools, a shopping mall, commercial and industrial properties, as well as churches.

According to Cleghorn, the indication he's gotten from city council and staff is a call for restrictive uses in areas a mile out from the airport.

For example, he says Canam would have difficulty expanding in the future, as its property sits within zone six. Residents within zone six may not be able to rebuild their homes after a fire, Cleghorn said.

He says he's all for zoning as needed to accommodate the airport and to make sure there's room for expansion. However, he feels there's a possibility it could go too far.

That's why he wants a full house for Tuesday's meeting.

"Do we have to shut everything down for 400 feet of runway?" he said. "People should be aware that they need to have input into this, and that their opportunity is on Tuesday."

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