July 24, 2008

Will Wrecking Yard Be Getting New Look?

By Patrick D Muir

Yakima County commissioners are contemplating spending about $140,000 for landscaping to ensure the Douglas Auto Wrecking yard doesn't become an eyesore in wine country.

The plan, which goes well beyond the fencing requirements mandated as part of the wrecking yard's relocation, would give the new business a natural look while making it less of a target for graffiti than a fence, Commissioner Mike Leita said.

The county is relocating the business to get it off an island in the Yakima River and out of the floodplain for environmental reasons and flood prevention. But their choice of a new site, at the corner of Yakima Valley Highway and Donald-Wapato Road, has stirred controversy.

The idea for vegetative screening started with neighbors of the project who were concerned about how a fenced-in wrecking yard would look along a main wine tourism corridor.

"We were approached by people who said, 'No, we want more,'" Leita said. "So we went through this process."

The design concept, created by Seattle landscape architect Colie Hough-Beck, would cost an estimated $80,000 to $142,000, depending on the options. It likely will include two rows of arborvitae, along with conifer trees and smaller shrubs that would shield the wrecking yard from traffic on Yakima Valley Highway.

Trees and shrubs would, indeed, be preferable to a fence but the landscaping doesn't address all the concerns of those opposed to relocating the wrecking yard. A group called Citizens Protecting Resources sued in April to stop the county from moving the business to the new site, which they say is a bad fit because of its value as a gateway to wine country.

They still argue that the county-funded move constitutes illegal gifting of public funds to Quintin Douglas, the business owner. And they have helped with the landscaping plans "under protest" as a pragmatic strategy, said Craig Fisher, an outspoken opponent of the relocation.

"If you're going to provide screening, the concept is acceptable to us," he said. "But none of this would be necessary if they weren't going ahead and putting the wrecking yard where they are."

The commissioners on Tuesday agreed to give people until Aug. 1 to comment on the landscaping plan.

Pat Muir can be reached at 577-7693 or [email protected]

Pat Muir

Yakima Herald-Republic

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