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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow ROOM WITH A VIEW?


ENTERPRISE — Hilltop structures are popping up on Wallowa County's countryside.

Could this start a trend of trophy homes dotting the ridges, forever altering the customs, culture and views of this rural area?

Such issues will be considered at the Wallowa County Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

Ranchers and farmers particularly need to be heard from, planning director Bill Oliver said. A recent state land-use law could become an issue on the county's 330,000 acres zoned for exclusive farm use, he said.

Since 1977, a state goal has been for the general population to live in towns and for only resource producers to occupy the lands outside of towns.

Generally, the state requires a minimum parcel of 80 acres on which to build a residence on EFU land. Counties must enforce that minimum, but can be more restrictive. Wallowa County requires 160 acres.

The 2001 Legislature passed HB 3326, which allows EFU parcels to be split into three parcels as long as one remains at least 160 acres. Non-farm residences can be built on the two new lots.

Union County does not allow non-farm partitions, Oliver said. Some counties allow non-farm partitions without controls. Two counties along the Columbia River allow them only with controls.

The planning commission wants to know which approach local people prefer and how they want their landscape to look.

There are 1,000 EFU parcels of more than 160 acres in the county, Oliver said. Theoretically, 2,000 new homes could go into farming areas. Farm uses, such as chemicals, animal noise and waste odor can conflict with non-farm neighbors, Oliver said. Another issue is fire protection outside rural contract areas.

There may be more pressure to develop outside towns as more people discover this area. The population remains the same here, but the mix of people is changing, Oliver said.

Some former workforce families are moving out and being replaced by people not dependent on jobs like those lost.

Newcomers may not want houses in town but may want to build outside of town, Oliver said.

Also not dependent on the land to produce their living, they may want to be atop a hill, where they can "look down on everyone else," Oliver said. Their new home becomes others' view.

The City of Enterprise has "view corridor" protection. It allows a one-story home, but the city can determine the best location on the lot to preserve others' views. Commercial view property provisions are more strict.

Until recently, county standards weren't needed, Oliver said. Common sense and economics dictated where a farmhouse was constructed. It was often modest, by a road and in a

draw, sheltered from wind and weather.

Since the new legislation, applications have been made to split building sites off traditional farmland, Oliver said.

Concerned that the new state law might trigger such development, Oliver drafted, for planning commission consideration, design standards based on those hammered out over eight years and adopted earlier this year, to protect the Wallowa Lake basin scenic vistas.

Those "visual subordination" standards require new structures, particularly those that would interrupt the skyline, to blend into or imitate the surrounding landscape.

Realtors counter that trophy homes bring in tax dollars and should be allowed ridgetop views. They said a view might be the best value of some unproductive rock knobs or scabby hillsides .

Written comments can be addressed to the Wallowa County Planning Department, 101 S. River, Enterprise 97828. They should be received by

5 p.m. Monday.

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