Housing for those with limited incomes is a classic NIMBY problem nearly every time a potential development is discussed.
Nowhere is that more evident in our region than in Prosser right now.
Catholic Charities Housing Services wants to build housing for low-income folks, mainly those working in agriculture. Most cities would embrace the idea of affordable housing being provided in the community, especially since the cost for the development would be paid for by the nonprofit and not with public funds. To us, it sounds like a win-win.
But apparently not to some Prosser residents.
The nonprofit's proposed good works project has the need for affordable housing pitted squarely against the tourism and wine industries, as well as area residents. Catholic Charities has asked the city for an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan to allow a high-density development on 11 acres off North River Road, west of Wine Country Road.
More than 200 people turned out at a recent public hearing on the proposed land-use change, most opposing the idea of the project as a whole and less interested in an amendment to the comprehensive plan.
Opponents expressed concern for preserving their quality of life, increased strain on city services from new residents and crime.
The irony is that the housing primarily would serve agricultural workers. Without them, Prosser wouldn't have a wine tourism industry to worry about.
Process that for a minute.
These are the folks doing the dirty work so Prosser can market itself as an upscale wine tourism destination. And the wine industry and related agritourism attractions are about the only thing keeping the Prosser economy rolling these days.
The nonprofit proposed a similar project near Vintner's Village in Prosser in 2007, but withdrew the plan after backlash from winery owners and business leaders who said it would hurt tourism at the nearby hub of wine tasting rooms.
In the most recent proposal off North River Road, the city's planning commission voted unanimously to oppose the change to the comprehensive plan needed for the development to be realized. Catholic Charities, which operates similar but smaller housing operations in the Valley, would need the change to be made before it would purchase the land for the project.
Some folks argue that Prosser has worked hard to create a certain genteel image to draw in tourists, and that this type of housing would tarnish that reputation.
But we see other behaviors that could damage that cultured image. While turning in 160 signed protest cards regarding the development, one resident was so kind as to turn to the representatives from Catholic Charities and tell them: "You folks are not welcome here."
Thankfully, the city's staff is a little more forward-thinking, urging the city council to give the plan careful consideration. And we agree.
Maybe this isn't the best location for the project. But the city and business leaders have at minimum a moral obligation to allow housing to be built for those supporting the very industry that makes Prosser succeed.
Stories abound of multiple families crammed into substandard and precarious housing. The need is clearly there. A nonprofit group with a proven track record in operating such complexes wants to build the housing. So why not work together to find an acceptable compromise?
Come on, Prosser. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.