Two years after Selah, Wash-based Matson Fruit Co. revealed plans for a 14.4-acre expansion, the project is back at square one.
“We are bottled up. We have no room to even become efficient,” said Rod Matson, president.
The 101-year-old company purchased the acreage adjacent to its property, and its request for rezoning from commercial to industrial was approved by the city’s planning commission. In December 2007, however, the Selah City Council denied the rezoning, sparking a court battle.
In mid-April, a Yakima court decision sent the matter back to the planning commission, which could address it in late May or early June, Matson said.
If the zoning change is not granted, Matson Fruit may be forced out of the city, he said. The company’s warehouse-packinghouse was built in the 1920s, Matson said, and needs to update packing lines and increase warehouse capacity.
“We can’t do any of that because we don’t have the room to expand,” he said. “Either this has to work for us, or we’ll be looking at moving to somewhere else around the (Yakima) Valley.”
The city purchased 23 acres near Matson Fruit and rezoned the property from industrial to commercial. It planned to sell the land to private commercial and retail developers. At the time the rezoning change was denied, council members said they were concerned that approving Matson Fruit’s application would interfere with those plans and the anticipated sales tax revenues new retailers would generate.
The company’s work force peaks at about 450 at least half of the year, Matson said.
“Not all of those people live in Selah, but they shop in Selah and eat lunch in Selah,” he said.
Four of the council’s seven members are new and did not participate in the 2007 vote denying the rezoning, Matson said. Regardless the ultimate decision by the city, Matson Fruit will remain in the apple industry, he said.
“We know we have to keep servicing our customers and doing the things they need, and one way or another we’ll continue doing that whether we have to move to another site and start over or continue at this site,” Matson said.