Battle continues over Sunnyside airport

Battle lines were again drawn last night in Sunnyside's year-long struggle over what to do with land annexed near the airport.

On one side is land owner and would-be developer Don Padelford and the city's own planning staff. On the other is the city council, the Port of Sunnyside and Sunnyside Community Hospital.

The latest chapter was Tuesday night's Sunnyside Planning Commission meeting, a one-topic agenda meeting to work on an airport overlay plan.

Padelford wants to build houses on his land and last night again testified to that end, noting that Sunnyside is missing out on wine tourism by not creating high-end housing with hangars near the airport to attract private airplane owners.

Sunnyside's planning department, planning commission, comprehensive plan and hearing commissioner have all previously agreed that some housing would be appropriate, as long as airport safety buffer parameters are met.

Planning Commission Chair Brent Cleghorn agreed with Padelford last night that Sunnyside is missing out on opportunities to capitalize on the wine tourism industry.

The city council, though, has agreed with Port of Sunnyside officials and hospital representatives who claim housing would interfere with future expansion plans for the airport runway.

Council earlier this year sided against Padelford, and the planning recommendations it received, asking the planning commission to come up with an airport plan.

A new voice in the debate last night was that of Ted Durfey, a Sunnyside-area farmer who pilots a small plane and maintains a fuel supply at the airport.

"Housing next to an airport is the kiss of death," said Durfey. He explained that residents near an airport can petition to have it removed due to noise complaints.

Padelford responded that airplane noise at the airport is drowned out by semi-truck traffic on nearby Highway 241.

The planning commission will venture again into the debate during airport planning workshops. The next regularly scheduled planning commission meeting is Tuesday, May 13.


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