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Zoning moratorium leaves Sunnyside landowner in a quandry

For some people, it's challenging to keep up with municipalities and the decisions they make.

That's the case with Sunnyside Barbra Johnson, who has found herself to be in quite the conundrum over zoning where she lives on East Edison, past SR 241.

Johnson and her husband put their house on the market so they could move to be closer to their kids. "We'd been saving extra money so we could (move to Seattle)."

Ultimately, the Johnsons found a buyer. That's when everything became quite confusing.

Johnson said she and her husband found out in June that the zoning of their property had been changed to industrial when the prospective buyer was declined a loan from the bank. She said he was told by bankers that money couldn't be lent due to the zoning.

Hoping to rectify the problem, the Johnsons trekked to the Yakima County Planning Department to ask that the zoning be changed. Johnson said the answer was no because there's a zoning moratorium in place.

Because of the zoning, Johnson said her house is now a non-conforming structure, something heartbreaking for her to hear.

"We bought it here in 1963 and loved living here," said Johnson. "We never thought we'd have any trouble selling our house."

Another negative factor in all of this is regulations regarding what should happen to the home in case of a fire. Because of the zoning, if the house were to be damaged significantly and rebuilding would be necessary, there's a cut-off point that would make it impossible. "You can't rebuild if a certain percent is destroyed by fire," she explained.

Johnson said she and her husband had no idea when or how their property was rezoned. "We were never notified."

When she tried to take that up with the county, officials told her that a legal advertisement would have run in the Yakima Herald Republic. Johnson said she doesn't read legal ads.

Johnson said she's tried everything and talked to many banks, as has the potential buyer. Ultimately she was told one option would be to carry the contract, something the Johnsons simply didn't want to and couldn't do. She said if she and her husband opted to carry the contract, they could have moved to Yakima without potential financial hardship, but not Seattle, which is where they wanted to go.

Sunnyside City Planner Jamey Ayling said the Johnsons' property is within Sunnyside's urban growth area. When there's an urban growth area, a comprehensive plan is designed for it, which includes the possibility of changing the zones if necessary.

Ayling said Johnson has two choices, but neither has the potential for a positive outcome for Johnson. One choice is to ask to be annexed into the city, which can't be done right now because of the moratorium. Johnson could also request a change be made to the comprehensive plan to make the zoning designation residential.

"(She) could apply for rezoning to the county and then she would have to convince the city to amend the comprehensive plan."

In the meantime, Johnson's left with few options in terms of selling the house.

One of her biggest concerns is whether or not her neighbors understand they could be in the same predicament.

Johnson said she doesn't want to cause trouble, but she does want her neighbors to understand how their properties have been impacted by county and city planning decisions.

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