A large cherry processing facility northeast of Selah that drew opposition from dozens of area residents, a local business and several agencies was approved last week by a Yakima County hearing examiner.
After a June 30 public hearing and nearly a year of reports, studies and written comments, Hearings Examiner Patrick Spurgin issued his decision Wednesday to approve the conditional use permit for the 280,000-square-foot facility near Harrison and Pomona, near the Yakima River. northeast of Selah.
Spurgin wrote that the proposal is consistent with Yakima County development regulations and the Yakima County Comprehensive Plan, and those findings “support a recommendation for conditional approval of the proposed agriculture-related industry (cherry processing and packing facility) in 56.4 hectares”.
Conditions include improving Pomona Road along the property’s western boundary, with construction and county approval of the new road required before the processing facility can be built. A stormwater pollution prevention plan is required and must be approved by the state Department of Ecology.
Finally, a minimum of 300 parking spaces must be built for the facility’s workers, unless housing for H-2A workers is built on the property, which reduces the number of workers who commute there, Spurgin wrote.
Details of the proposal
The proposal was submitted to Yakima County planning officials on Sept. 22021, by developer Leanne Liddicoat of Yakima Digital Design and Development (3D).
It was filed on behalf of property owners Aaron and Marlena Buchanan. The site was subsequently sold to Giddings Cerasus USA, a fruit company based in The Dalles, Ore. The company is a subsidiary of Giddings Fruit, a worldwide exporter of cherries, berries and other fruits based in Santiago, Chile.
The 56.4-acre site is at the southeast corner of Pomona and East Pomona streets, about 2 miles northeast of the Selah city limits. Also adjacent are 10 homes on Rivers Edge Lane, which sits between the proposed processing facility and the Yakima River. North of those houses is a lot owned and operated by the Department of Defense to provide services to the nearby Yakima Training Center.
Plans submitted to the county show the facility would operate seasonally, primarily during cherry harvest, six days a week with one or two shifts of 300 workers each. It is anticipated that temporary housing for agricultural workers will be built on site in the future. Building heights will not exceed 35 feet, and primary access to the site would be via State Route 821 and East Pomona Road, according to the developer.
Two public comment periods last fall generated more than 35 letters, most in opposition to the proposal. Objections included the project’s impact on traffic, potential interference with existing wells or other water sources, impacts on the area’s rural character and property values, and conflicts with the military’s use of Pomona Road.
The issues raised by nearby residents were summed up by the views of Bill and Molly Madison, who have lived in the area for more than 21 years and believe a processing facility “the size of two Costcos” employing 300 to 500 people would to drastically change the area. .
“I understand what they’re proposing, that they’re trying to do something with the land, but it’s just not in the right place,” Bill Madison told the Yakima Herald-Republic in late October.
In addition to residents, letters of objection or questions about the project came from the city of Selah, Zirkle Fruit Company, the state Department of Ecology, the Selah-Moxee Irrigation District and the Rosa Irrigation District.
Many of those concerns were addressed both in person and online during the June 30 public hearing, Spurgin noted in his ruling. He visited the site and the surrounding area immediately after the session.
‘Industry related to agriculture’
Finally, Spurgin cited the findings in the county’s Final Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance, filed May 31 of this year, which determined that the project would not have a significant potential negative impact on the environment, with three caveats:
- Potential disturbance of human skeletal remains during construction
- Acquisition of a high water right (before 1905) for the main course of the Yakima River or a tributary
- Working with Northwest Pipeline Corporation on violations and development within their right-of-way.
These issues were addressed by Spurgin in his list of conditions for adoption.
Regarding residents’ concerns about the area’s rural character and their property values, Spurgin wrote that while residential development has occurred on land zoned for agriculture and similar activities, “agricultural-related industry is permitted with minimal review.” in such areas.
“Agriculture-related industry is specifically permitted in the R10/5 zone (processing factory site zoning), with the primary purpose of ensuring compatibility with neighboring uses, so it is difficult to categorize uses such as ‘non-rural’, he wrote. .
Spurgin added that residents’ concerns about future H-2A housing at the site will be addressed through required compliance with US Department of Homeland Security rules and Washington Department of Health regulations.
His decision stipulates that the conditions imposed on the developer must be met in three years.