July 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

People want to live in the wooded and quiet Morgan Lake Estates, says the owner of property there, but the Union County Planning Commission probably wont allow any more development in that rural area fewer than two miles from La Grande.

The planning commission voted Monday night to tentatively deny permission for a forest residential zone that would allow 10-acre lots on nearly 204 acres in Morgan Lake Estates. Sam Ledridge, a Morgan Lake resident, applied for the zone change. The planning commission will make a final decision at its next meeting, in either August or September.

Ledridge sought permission more than a year ago to build on a 30-acre lot on Wood Lane in the area, but permission was denied because the land is zoned for timber management and grazing. Ledridge said the next best alternative is a change in the zoning.

Several houses already stand on Wood Lane and Morgan Lake Road, but some property owners, including planning commission member Doug Waldrop, objected to the increased density. Waldrop testified but neither participated in discussion nor voted on the matter.

Waldrop, who lives on about eight acres on Morgan Lake Road, said he objects to developing only the wooded section of an area that includes range land and farming.

He said if development occurs, it should include the entire area.

Other residents objected to the increased traffic that additional development would bring to Morgan Lake Road. In letters to the planning commission, three homeowners objected to any change in the area. Other residents, however, said that while they object to new zoning, they do not object to Ledridges building one house on his 30-acre lot.

Bob Weber, whose property is next door to Ledridges, wrote, I am not against a house being built on the 30 acres, although he said he objects to changing the zone.

Many of the residents expressed concerns about the steep grade, the width and the condition of Morgan Lake Road, which goes from La Grande to Morgan Lake, a popular recreation area. Several, including Patrice Barreto, said they have concerns about safety along the road. Barreto said she believes school buses cannot travel safely along the road.

Planning commission member Doc Savage echoed the safety worries.

I am concerned about adding traffic to the road, he said.

Planning commission member Gus Tsiatsos asked that the countys public works department be asked for an assessment of Morgan Lake Road.

The area does not lie within any rural fire protection district. Michael McAllister, who lives on Morgan Lake Road, supported Ledridges request, but he said the area needs to develop some sort of fire protection plan. I am concerned about the spread of fire, he said.

Several planning commission members questioned the potential density of the area if 10-acre parcels are allowed.

Development in the wooded area of Morgan Lake Estates began in about 1979. The area was subsequently zoned for timber management and grazing.

Ledridge said that logging is not taking place in Morgan Lake Estates, but other residents disagreed.

Most of us have harvested timber commercially, McAllister said.

In a statement to the planning commission, Ledridge said he has had inquiries about his 30-acre lot.

People want to live in a place with peace and quiet, he said. The people there take care of the forest.

A staff report states that the land east of Morgan Lake has been identified as possible future farm residential use contingent on creating basically a new all-weather road access and making provision for such services as school buses and fire protection.

If the planning commission denies Ledridges application, as expected, he may appeal the decision to the Union County commissioners.