Teresa Ballard talks about a decision to rezone a piece of property behind her home on Thompson Avenue in Nyssa. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).
NYSSA – A group of residents are crying foul about a recent Nyssa City Council decision to rezone land to make way for a potential expansion by an onion firm.
By a 4-3 vote, the council last month changed zoning from residential to commercial for about four vacant acres behind Thompson Avenue and along South Ninth Street owned or controlled by Fiesta Farms.
Councilors Roberto Escobedo, Ron Edmondson, Krissy Walker and Mayor Betty Holcomb voted to approve the zone change.
Councilors Patricia Esplin, Pat Oliver and Morganne DeLeon voted no.
Neighbors believe Fiesta Farms plans call for large onion sheds to be built right up to the edge of their back fences, impacting their quality of home life and creating noise and odor problems.
Marc Bybee, co-owner of Fiesta Farms and Eagle Eye Produce, confirmed his company wants to expand at some point but said he isn’t sure what will be built – if anything.
“There really aren’t any concrete plans. It may be storage, could be production but we really didn’t put a lot of energy into that plan until we could determine if it could be rezoned,” said Bybee.
The March special meeting on the rezone proposal attracted a large on-line crowd of people and was “contentious,” said Jim Maret, Nyssa city manager.
The zoning issue was previously reviewed by the city planning and zoning board, which declined to approve it.
Bybee said the new zoning gives his firm more options regarding the future.
“It keeps us in the ball game to whether we stay here in Oregon or start looking at a new location elsewhere,” said Bybee.
Bybee said Fiesta Farms – an onion packing firm - employs about 25 seasonal workers and are “pretty small in the onion scheme.”
Fiesta Farms consists of several, large warehouses with docking bays.
Teresa Ballard, who with her husband Ross, lives on the corner of Thompson Avenue and South Ninth Street, said the city council’s decision was “very, very disturbing.”
“I have multiple questions about what has happened. First of all, it’s been zoned since the 1970s as residential,” said Ballard.
Ballard said her main worry is increased truck traffic and concerns about where new buildings – such as onion packing sheds – would be located. She said she fears Fiesta Farms could potentially build an onion shed right up to their back fence.
“With onion shed production plants there are backing Hysters, trucks and semis that come down to wait to be loaded or unloaded. It will significantly impact the nature of this residential neighborhood,” said Ballard.
Ballard said she “sympathizes with the Bybees.”
“They have a business and want to expand but they bought that property knowing how it was zoned,” said Ballard.
Gary Kiyuna, a local attorney who lives on Thompson Avenue, said the zoning change could potentially “affect everyone” along the street if Fiesta Farms expands.
“It will lower property values by thousands and thousands of dollars. Basically, if you have a house there and you bought it there because the city had zoned it, you expect them to keep their word,” said Kiyuna.
Kiyuna said the sense among many of his neighbors is the city betrayed them.
“The neighborhood folks always get accused of being anti-business, which is actually kind of shallow. We just like the neighborhood,” said Kiyuna.
Maret said there was some misinformation out regarding what the Fiesta Farms intends to do in the future.
“Sheds won’t abut the back of those houses,” said Maret.
Maret said Fiesta Farms also must get a conditional use permit for any operation on the land.
“That will come back to the council and they can put stipulations on it,” said Maret.
Bybee said his firm’s approach is to “impact the residents near us as little as possible.”
“But, at the same time, we are both going to have to compromise and probably sacrifice a little and realize this city was founded on agriculture and that it is sustained on agriculture today. I will probably not get everything I want and the residents will not get what they want but I still think we can come up with a plan that is good for Nyssa,” said Bybee.
Cherly Ziegler, who also lives on Thompson Avenue, said she agrees compromise is needed. She said if Bybee could share expansion plans with the residents it would help.
“I understand he wants to grow his business. But if he could sit down and give us a rough plan, that would help us understand,” said Ziegler.
Ziegler said she is concerned that “the city is allowing an industry to come back there on commercial ground and not on industrial ground,” said Ziegler.
Maret said he believes if “everyone can take this now and work forward together this will be a win-win for everybody.”
Holcomb, the Nyssa mayor, said the rezone to help Fiesta Farms will be good for the town. She said she considered the potential needs of Nyssa when she voted for the rezone.
“I just think it involves more than the city limits and that was what I was looking at. I was looking at what was good for our town, not just the people on Thompson Avenue,” said Holcomb.
Ballard said she and her husband – who was once the mayor – are already preparing to move.
“We moved to this house 25 years ago. This end of town happens to be a pretty pleasant place to live in. All of this makes you think maybe we will just move to Idaho,” said Ballard.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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