Zillah business man Ryan Stonemetz is trying to build a sports-entertainment complex to benefit Granger, but he heard enough negativity at a public hearing last Thursday to make him doubt the community appreciates his effort.
Stonemetz was visibly shaken from the beginning of the hearing, when his plan was rebuffed by City Planner Mike Shuttleworth of Yakima Valley Conference of Governments. After reading Stonemetz’s proposal and a list of what he termed unmet requirements, Shuttleworth said his recommendation to the city council would be to turn down Stonemetz request for a conditional use permit.
Shuttleworth said Stonemetz had not dealt with questions of dust, sanitation, traffic, pedestrian access and noise and lighting. When he finished, Stonemetz was red-faced with a tightening jaw.
Given a chance to respond, Stonemetz took control of the floor, defending his plan and himself. He had an audience of 80-100 willing listeners. He told Hearing Examiner Gary Cuillier some of the documentation he sent the city on these issues, strangely, was not in Shuttleworth’s final report.
Cuillier apparently didn’t hear Stonemetz correctly. He asked if those papers should have been part of the record, why hadn’t he sent them to the city before the hearing.
Stonemetz’s became a little more perturbed, but he forged ahead, showing the audience and Cuillier all the paper work that addressed the issues.
To Shuttleworth’s claim that there was not enough parking, Stonemetz said that was because Shuttleworth wanted enough parking for every possible use at one time. He said the events will not all occur at the same time.
He said he has more than 100 parking spaces planned and can add more as needed. He said the number of spaces is related to the capacity of the horse arena, which is 1,920 spectators
The crowd seemed to be with Stonemetz, but they stumbled at what seemed like a curve ball. He said he did not plan for foot traffic because he hopes not to have any. He will be charging for parking, he said, so he wants everyone to come in cars.
Some folks found that unrealistic if not unreasonable. With a lot of people living in apartments across the street from the planned complex, folks thought he should rethink that issue.
Cuillier stepped in after about half an hour to allow public testimony. All of it was supportive in some way, but there were a few questions.
All who commented live in Granger or the Granger School District.
“I whole-heartedly support what Mr. Stonemetz wants to do,” Carl Hurlburt said. “It will add to Granger.”
On the issue of adequate parking, Hurlburt said Stonemetz was being held to a higher standard than anyone before. He believes the city has taken the wrong approach.
“The city should do all it can to help him,” Hurlburt said.
Lewis Klueber said he expects traffic and noise problems.
Imelda Castillo, who lives close enough to hear the noise, said she liked the idea of business coming to Granger, but for her, noise was a big concern.
Wendy Ibarra, who doesn’t like noise, said, “That is a little sacrifice for the good it can bring kids and our economy.”
Debbie Klueber reiterated her husband Lewis’ comments but added, “We are all for the events.”
Jaquelina Herrera said, “I want to support anything that’s an opportunity for the community,” but there are more questions, and he should be given the opportunity and time to answer them.
Bruce Hall, who was irate with the city for not giving him direct notice of this or previous discussions, said, “I really have no objection to this (complex).”
With commentary seemingly at an end, Stonemetz shot past Cuillier and took control of the floor again. He vigorously answered the questions. He said some of the vagueness comes from the nature of the business. He said the entertainment business, by its nature, doesn’t run as smoothly as a clock.
As an example, Stonemetz said the city insists on approving every event two weeks before the event. He said he needs blanket approval for extended periods of time.
“Sometimes people will call a week in advance looking for a hall for a quinceanera,” he said.
Stonemetz intimated that the time consumed by process to this point has cost him money. He said six Mexican rodeos scheduled for this year had to be canceled.
“Willie Nelson wanted to come to Granger, and we couldn’t do it,” he said.
“I’m trying to do this for the community,” he added. “Right now I’m down one and one-half million dollars.”
There were positive signs after the hearing. Stonemetz and City Clerk Alice Koerner were speaking amicably about moving forward.