Just when I thought the planning commission's work on the airport was finished, I was informed this week that we will again be spending time on the airport overlay. This affects zoning on property surrounding the airport, and extends out one mile from the center of the runway.
As chair of the Sunnyside Planning Commission, I have sat for more than two years listening to testimony on this issue. There have been many who were concerned about the city restricting their land use. But mostly I have heard from a loud few in our community that would take away our citizens' right to choose how they would manage their property.
This special interest group convinced a few members of the city council to follow them. They also convinced some members of the planning commission. But not me! They spent over two years making people believe that while traffic at the airport has declined for the past 18 years, it was going to rise again to be a bustling mecca of commerce. What a crock of bologna.
Has anyone else reading this letter heard that we are in a major recession? It will take years to get our economy back to where it was just a short time ago.
We can't seem to maintain our parks. Our community center is closed. The parks & rec department was eliminated. We had to cut our police force by two officers. These are just a few cuts that had to be made. Can we afford to spend vital time and resources to work on an asset that has been declining for close to 20 years?
Now, you might think as you read this that I am against an airport in our community. That could not be further from the truth. I will again say for the record that I am in favor of keeping our airport. It's the way we develop that asset that has me at odds with the special interests in our community.
I think our airport would make a great airpark. We could have people living by its borders who own planes. They could keep them here in Sunnyside and fly in and out of our community. It could also be promoted as a place for people with planes to come and visit our valley. Think of the tourist possibilities.
But what it will never be is a commercial airport lined with industrial buildings with planes flying in and out to deliver freight. This is reality, people. Why would those kind of businesses come to Sunnyside when they have existing infrastructure in Yakima or the Tri-Cities that is ready for them to move into right now? Are we ready? What do we, as a community have to sacrifice to be ready? These are but a few of the questions we need to answer.
I honestly believed the special interests had won the battle. But finally there is a voice of reason that has spoken to the city council. The attorney that council hired after chasing off Mark Kunkler has told them their airport plan has some flaws. First, it's too restrictive. That's what I have been saying for years. Second, the zoning restrictions extend too far out from the airport, which affects too many people.That's funny, I had the same thought. And third, the plan that council has been told by the special interests should be adopted, does not follow the city's comprehensive plan.
Wow, that's a lot of problems. Coupled with the fact that the city has a pending lawsuit by one of the major landowners bordering the airport, the city stands to lose big if they don't soften their stance.Now that's good advice.
I spoke before the council almost two years ago and told them an easy way to solve this problem. But did they listen? No, why spoil a perfect record. Some members of this city council have made mistake after mistake running Sunnyside. It could cost the taxpayers millions before it's all done, and I am frankly tired of their short sightedness.
It's time for change. Time to elect a council that will put the citizens of Sunnyside before the special interests who think they own our community. I hope when you mark your ballots this election season you too will think about our future. We can go a long way towards improving Sunnyside by voting out the old guard. There are opportunities for change on the city council, and the port district. Vote wisely. We can't afford any more setbacks. We need to begin to fix the problems that face us.
Brent Cleghorn is Chair, Sunnyside Planning Commission