Appeal for home occupation permit struck down

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer July 06, 2012 12:30 pm

Benjamin and Ariel Bean will be permitted to continue operation of their controversial, home-based motorcycle and auto repair shop on West Road, according to a tentative decision made by the Union County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.

Commission Chairman Bill Rosholt and Commissioner Steve McClure both cast votes against an appeal of a planning commission decision to grant a conditional use home occupation permit to the Beans. Commissioner Mark Davidson sat the vote out, recusing himself because his engine repair shop does business with the Beans.

In talk before the vote, Rosholt said he thought the board should uphold the planning commission’s original decision, but change the permit’s conditions so that the shop closes earlier each day.

The planning commission approved the Beans’ application for the permit following a contentious hearing March 26. Bean told the planning commission that he needed to run the business at the home location because he is caring for his father who is elderly

Among conditions imposed by the planning commission was one that requires Bean to relocate the business within 12 months of the death of his father.  Other conditions included operating hours between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., no major repairs done outside the shop building, delivery vehicles limited to one ton or smaller, and no parking on the roadway adjacent to the property. Bean can only use 1200 square feet of his large shop building for business purposes.

Many neighborhood residents objected to the home occupation business permit, with 22 of them joining in the appeal of the decision. The appellants, represented by Portland attorney Edward J. Sullivan, said Bean’s repair shop posed a threat to neighborhood quality of life. They cited increased traffic, noise, dust and other impacts, and said the use is not supported by the county’s land use code.

The county board held an appeal hearing June 6, gathering testimony from opponents who re-stated their concerns about neighborhood impacts, and from Benjamin Bean, who said his business doesn’t create any more impacts than other home occupation and commercial-level businesses operating in the area. Bean said he is operating within the conditions spelled out in the permit.

The board tabled the matter, leaving the record open to more written testimony. When Rosholt and McClure rendered their decision Thursday, they said the fact that other people operate home businesses in the area was important to consider.

“I feel there has been and will be others who own home occupation businesses in the area,” Rosholt said.

McClure said there are other shops in the West Road neighborhood that do automotive work.

“It was pointed out to us there are a lot of people out there who do that kind of work,” he said.

After the vote, the board instructed Planning Director Hanley Jenkins to draft findings of fact based on the tentative decision and bring them back for consideration at the July 18 meeting. 

McClure said it’s possible the county hasn’t heard the last of the issue.

“I’m sure it’s going to be appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, but that’s fine, that’s the process,” he said.

In other business Thursday, the board met with members of the Blue Mountain Humane Society to discuss operations at the animal shelter.

Back in April, the shelter came in for some controversy as a group headed by Jane Sabin-Davis aired concerns to the county board about the shelter’s “high save” policies. The group expressed concerns that aggressive dogs and feral cats that should be euthanized are being returned to the community instead. It said that because Union County is a funding partner, it is open to liability.  

Also, the group made claims the Humane Society board was being less than transparent about budget matters, the shelter’s endowment, and meeting minutes.

Since then, McClure and the humane society have met to work out issues. McClure said Thursday he is pleased with progress of the talks but that the county’s policy agreement with the humane society needs some updating.

“I felt good about our discussions but I don’t think we’re done,” he said. “We need to review the agreement and we need to agree on criteria,” he said.

Heidi Van Schoonhoven of the society said she too is pleased with progress of talks so far. She also said the society is dedicated to being open about its policies.

“Our goal is to be transparent. I think there’s been some misconception, but we’re past that now,” she said.

Van Schoonhoven said the society lives up to state standards regarding budget. She also touched on the high save policy, saying that a policy of working with other organizations  out of the area has led to many successful placements of animals that otherwise would be euthanized.

McClure said discussions will continue, and pledged that the process will be an open one.

“Once we have everything together, we’ll bring it back to the commissioners and have a discussion with the public,” he said. “We haven’t swept it under the rug. We’re going to work it out.”

In a third matter Thursday, the board received an update on activities of the Northeast Oregon Network, a non-profit health care group also known as NEON.

Lisa Ladendorff of the group talked about initiatives to bolster the number of local people with health insurance, and to improve access to health care.

Ladendorff invited the commissioners to community meetings NEON plans in Wallowa County July 11, and Union County July 12.