It’s not that the house Castulo Ruiz rents for his family of five just north of town is tiny or rundown. It has three bedrooms, a washer and dryer and a garage.
But at $700 a month, the rent is a strain on the seasonal farm worker. He would move if he could to be thrifty, but where?
“What do I do? What options do I have?” said Ruiz with a smile and a shrug.
Few options, and that’s the problem, say proponents of a large, low-income housing complex proposed for Prosser, an image-conscious city where many residents oppose the changes they fear the development will bring.
A four-year-long debate over high-density housing in the heart of wine country is pitting city officials and neighbors against each other and forcing City Hall to book larger venues for public hearings on the matter.
Indeed, the controversy over high-density housing represents a new kind of dilemma for a city that not only hasn’t seen much conflict over growth but has embraced the development of agritourism as a way to build up the local economy.
But the prospect of this new kind of development scares people like 89-year-old Maxine Brown.
“If the low-income project is built, Prosser will be in the news as frequently as Grandview and Sunnyside for gang activity, drive-by shootings, knife attacks and violent crimes,” she wrote to the city’s planning commission last year.
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