MABTON - The newly formed Mabton Planning Commission recently suggested some changes to the city's zoning laws that seem to be getting support from the city council.
In a meeting last week council heard from planning commission chairman Greg Hurn. Planning commission member Steve Smith said Hurn spoke about a couple of different zoning issues but the main one, Smith said, was the recommendation to re-zone approximately 240 acres of land east of Mabton city limits. The land is between Highway 22 and Euclid Avenue and is claimed by Mabton in the city's urban growth area and is currently designated as industrial zoning.
Just who changed the designation from agriculture to industrial and why is in dispute but property owners in the area say the values of their homes have plummeted because of the zoning.
According to Smith, who lives in the area, the industrial zoning tag has caused every property owner to be in violation of the current land use regulations because their current activities are nonconforming use.
Smith earlier told the council that nearly every parcel has a structure that is nonconforming due to the zoning change. Because of this, banks won't lend money to property owners or prospective buyers, and Smith said that financial institutions like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have guidelines that prohibit financial institutions from lending on residential properties outside of residential zoning.
Because of the harm the zoning designation is causing these property owners Smith said that Hurn suggested to council that the city re-zone the area.
Smith believes the best direction the city can go is to remove land from the city's urban growth area east of Gulden Road and let it go back to the county. The land west of Gulden Road would be re-zoned residential. This, Smith said, is a better fit because the land already butts up against residential land and would be the natural designation when the city grows in the future.
The Yakima County commissioners have put in place a one-year moratorium on any legislative action dealing with land zoning but Smith said he thinks if the city wanted to take land out of its urban growth plan legislative action wouldn't be needed.
Mabton City Councilman Mario Martinez said the way he understood Hurn's recommendation would leave the all the land in the city's urban growth plan and just re-zone it.
Action will have to be taken at some point by the council but Martinez said he doesn't know when that will happen.
The other proposed changes by the planning commission would change the zoning designation along the city's south frontage of Highway 22 from residential to mixed use. The same change would take place along the 241 corridor from Washington Street to Jackson Street, Martinez said.
Martinez said he thought the proposals were good, especially the change in zoning on the disputed 240 acres.
"That will be the best process to help the landowners," he said.
As far as the residential to mixed use changes, Martinez is also on board for that.
"I think the mixed use designation is the right way to go for the city," he added. "It will give people more options and incentive to come over to Mabton."