GRANGER Eighty to 100 Granger folks showed up at a zoning change hearing Thursday evening in a foul mood and left even more disgruntled.
Not one of those present spoke in favor of the H2A housing project, not even property owner Rose Parker of Yakima.
Parker had been a long-time resident of Granger and is still friends with many in opposition to her request. Most likely intimidated, she spoke only about “doing this for the children.”
That didn’t sit well with the crowd. The children she was speaking of are homeless. The Yakima Housing Authority, which would build and own the dormitory style housing for single men from Mexico, has proposed using it as homeless housing from about mid-October to mid-March.
New Granger Superintendent Brian Hart said Granger already has 39 homeless children and struggles to meet their needs as imposed by the federal government. He noted that a homeless child from Yakima could demand to be bused to Yakima, and Granger would have to comply and pay the cost.
Retired Transportation Manager Dave Pearson said he received a call from Wapato one day notifying him he had to bus a kid there. When he said he didn’t have a driver, Wapato decided to do the transport, but Granger had to pay.
“Don’t believe Yakima Doesn’t want to get rid of those kids,” Pearson said.
That was just one of the things that made things worse for the folks. As they heard more irksome aspects of the project, they started to realize they’ve been sleeping while the city council has made decisions they now don’t like.
Paul Golob said Cherry Hill is prime land for single family housing. He said that would improve the tax base for support of schools.
“We need to stay with the urban growth plan,” Golob said.
Josh Golob, who put math equations to the land that has and will come off the tax rolls, said the school district will miss out on $80,000-100,000 per year.
Friday, Michael Zuniga, who built a $250,000 home two years ago in Eagle’s Nest atop Cherry Hill, said he paid $60,000 just for the lot. He said there are 22 homes now in Eagles Nest, most valued higher than his. He said a “ton of lots” remain, and expects construction to start going down the north slope in the near future.
“The view is spectacular,” he said. “Especially at night.”
A few people who bought property from Parker for homes on Cherry Hill said that, at that time, Parker said all of the land would become single family housing.
Hart said the district relies on property taxes to fund programs that are not supported by the state’s basic education funding. He said the district does the best it can for the current enrollment of 1,500 students.
“It’s hard to plan for students who attend from October to March,” Hart said.
People complained about dust control, unpaved parking, and safety for the farm working tenants and the public. And differences in lifestyle.
Eric Lopez said his wife almost ran over a tenant who fell asleep in the road that leads to their home above the current and proposed complexes. He said tenants go up the road looking for better cell phone connections.
Toward the end of the hearing, Granger School District resident Eva Carpenter told hearing examiner Gary Cuillier the people hadn’t really said what they came to say. She appeared ready to say it but backed away.
After the hearing in the city hall parking lot, some people said what they wouldn’t say in the hearing. Although they referred to the project as farmworker housing in the hearing, outdoors they complained about housing for single men from Mexico who may not really be single.
The project would be within easy walking distance of downtown Granger. It would be located next to a H2A project built earlier this year.
“I have a 13-year-old daughter, and I’ve already told her not to go near that place.” said Juan Alaniz, whose home sits above the complex on Cherry Hill.
In the hearing room, the thing that bothered all detractors was that the complex would not generate property taxes for the schools. They repeated that refrain 50-100 times. They also claimed the project would devalue Cherry Hill properties.
“Cherry Hill should be beautiful single family homes,” one person said.
After getting an earful, the housing authority’s Susan Wilson tried to answer the questions, but nobody was listening. One detractor asked how many people were going to live in the half-built first complex. She answered 210.
A groan rose from the crowd.
“We were told it was going to be 91,” one man yelled.
Sylvia Newhouse asked her, “Where are the homeless going to go when the farm workers come back?” Wilson didn’t answer.
Another detractor shouted, “One is enough.”