Prosser plan could lead to low-income housing complex

PROSSER -- Another chapter in an ongoing controversy over high-density housing in the heart of wine country will be played out tonight when the city of Prosser holds a public meeting on a growth plan that could open the way for a low-income housing complex.

While the 6 p.m. meeting at the Princess Theatre on Meade Avenue is technically about updating the city's state-mandated growth plan, it's likely to focus on a proposal by Catholic Charities Housing Services.

The nonprofit developer wants to build a low-income complex with up to 121 apartments on 11.6 acres of unincorporated land off North River Road, just west of Wine Country Road.

If the city council opts to change the land's residential land-use designation from low- and medium-density to high-density, Catholic Charities would buy the land and seek annexation into the city for hook up to water and sewer services.

The council will accept public comments tonight, but will not make a decision.

Catholic Charities has seven similar, but smaller, developments in the Lower Valley. The facilities are aimed at helping working families and are sometimes geared especially to seasonal or year-round farm workers.

The proposal has generated mixed responses from residents. Some fear it would attract crime and devalue nearby property. Others are less opposed, but would like to see smaller developments scattered over a wider area.

In 2007, Catholic Charities proposed a housing complex for 20 acres next to Vintner's Village, a cluster of wineries.

The idea was withdrawn after winery owners and business leaders said it would hurt tourism growth in a town that has welcomed agritourism as a way to boost the economy.