Last night (Tuesday) it appeared the Sunnyside Planning Commission was going to approve conditional residential zoning in Zone Five, which contains the property of Don Padelford.
Language proposed in the airport overlay zoning district ordinance submitted by City Planner Jamey Ayling would have allowed residential use on a "minimum of 2.5 acre parcels and farther than 500 feet from the edge of the runway."
After checking with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Ayling said future airport projects would not be jeopardized, nor would any federal funding for the airport.
Commission Chairman Brent Cleghorn expressed his concerns, asking about the level of restrictions in the language of the ordinance. He noted the zoning laws in Sunnyside are more restrictive than the overlay ordinance.
The commission also noted any building already in existence can remain and if it is destroyed, the property owner has one year to submit permits to rebuild the building.
Ayling reminded the commission the building must meet its original footprint, however.
He said the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) provided its approval of the ordinance he submitted to the commissioners.
Later, though, Sunnyside resident and Port of Sunnyside Property Development and Project Manager Jay Hester took to the podium during the public comments section.
He disputed Ayling, reading an email sent by Carter Timmerman, aviation planner for the WSDOT.
In that email, rezoning Padelford's property and any other property within zone five of the Sunnyside Airport was discouraged.
"Residential development is generally considered incompatible with aviation facilities," Timmerman emailed Hester.
He also informed Hester that residential properties encroach upon aviation facilities and have been a "key factor contributing to the closure of general aviation airports in the United States."
Hester said rezoning the Padelford property or any other property within the zone would limit the development of the airport and result in a safety risk.
Ayling countered, stating the overlay ordinance is not a comprehensive plan and noted WSDOT is the guiding agency when issues of zoning near the airport are being considered.
He later noted the language in the ordinance submitted limits zone five to a maximum of 15 lots. He said the planning commission would also have the option of being more restrictive and limit the area to three residences.
The commission further discussed the issues of populating the area near the airport.
Commissioner DeAnn Hochhalter asked if industrial zoning would increase the populated area more than residential zoning.
Ayling said it would because the limit of 100 persons per acre grows as the acreage increases.
The commission also heard from Sunnyside resident and property owner Bill Flower, who told the commissioners he believes zoning the Padelford property for residential use would not be in the best interest of the city.
Flower said although he has known Padelford for most of his life and understands Padelford's desire to develop his property, Flower said the costs associated with expanding the airport can grow exponentially if housing is within the boundaries.
"Don (Padelford) is adamant about developing houses, but it would be better and of the same value if he were to have an industry like Canam (on the property)," said Flower.
He suggested the commission look to the future of the community, and think about its potential growth.
"Thirty years in the future Sunnyside and the Lower Valley will be different," said Flower, stating the population will have grown, as will much of the area's industry.
He suggested the Sunnyside Airport serves a need in the Lower Yakima Valley. That need is the ability to allow executives to fly into Sunnyside, rather than to use the airports in Yakima or the Tri-Cities.
Hochhalter, after hearing from Flower, said she no longer felt confident about the ordinance language proposed by Ayling.
"Everything I read says no residential, no residential," she shared.
Hochhalter made a motion to have the language for zone five changed, restricting residential use within a 1,000 foot boundary of the runway.
Her motion was carried and was approved.
Following that motion a heated discussion took place regarding Cleghorn's desire to see the language before it is submitted to the Sunnyside City Council. Noting he would be out of town for two weeks, and the moratorium on the airport zoning is near its expiration date, Cleghorn decided to hold a special meeting Wednesday, July 29, at 6:30.
At that point, Flower stood and informed the chairman that it is the job of the commissioners to decide when the ordinance proposal is submitted to city council.
"I have made my decision," countered Cleghorn.
"That is the job of the commission and you are one of four here tonight," Flower volleyed.
He was concerned with the moratorium expiration date and felt the commissioners did not need to look at the residential restriction changes in the ordinance.
Cleghorn was not pleased with Flower and the fact that he carries with him a book citing public meeting protocol. Cleghorn yelled at Flower, "I don't care about your book...sit down."
After the special meeting date was set, the commission approved the annexation of 5.74 acres, located at 3991 Outlook Road.
Property owner Fred Rodriguez told the commissioners he would like to develop the property for residential use.
Currently the property has one home on it and he would divide the property into approximately five or six parcels.
Ayling said the city recommended the annexation, citing there is adequate service to the property in regards to water and sewer, as well as a hydrant for fire services.
He also proposed the adjacent property for annexation. He said that property would be an island if it were not included in the annexation.
Both properties were approved for annexation and Rodriguez's property was approved for R-2 zoning.