Planners recommend residential land be rezoned commercial

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer November 28, 2012 02:01 pm

Property next to the Joseph airport is on its way to being rezoned. The Wallowa County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that 32 acres of residential land be rezoned commercial.

The proposal by Paula Krieger to rezone the property included a description of a potential commercial property that would include a 27,900 square foot building including office, warehouse, barn, storage and corral space, parking for up to 206 vehicles, a helipad for lease to a government agency.

Opposition centered on the proximity of the proposed zone change to the City of Enterprise’s drinking water source. 

Rob Taylor of Enterprise said in a letter to the commission, “Changing the zoning of the aforementioned parcels would allow for more intense development of the area and greater likelihood that the storage of chemicals, fuels, and other substances would make their way into the city springs. Large parking lots and other impermeable surfaces, characteristic of most commercial developments, would also increase the likelihood of water contamination.”

Rahn Hostetter, representing the property owner S&V, said the application was not for any particular use, but an application for a zone change.

“The reason you know the intent is we volunteered that. When the Forest Service comes out with the specification, projected for January, the intent of S&V and their proposal to construct on these 30 acres can’t be done without a zone change,” Hostetter told the commission.

Hostetter also argued that the zone change doesn’t trigger an analysis of the watershed overlay.

He also said that the residential subdivision properties in the county are not selling and the rezone to commercial would make the property more usable, something the commission is charged to take into consideration.

Concerns over the watershed were addressed in a letter by the City of Enterprise and orally by the city’s planning commission chairman, Marc Stauffer. Some of the concerns listed in the city’s letter were, “The change in zone to rural commercial would permit a number of uses, as conditional uses, which were not permitted in the prior zone, some of which could pose a threat to the city’s springs.” The letter goes on to say, “This rezone … allows more intensive uses and does increase the risk.”

When the property was rezoned from industrial to residential, the city approved it because it took the land to a status that would have less impact and risk to the watershed. Now the city contends changing it to commercial would open the watershed to more risk.

Stauffer told the commissioners that the city planners took a lot of time to consider their recommendation for the rezone including three meetings and a site visit. Even with careful review, the  commissioners came out with a tied vote whether to recommend the rezone or not to the city council. The Enterprise City Council in turn voted unanimously to not recommend the rezone.

“Any change that could potentially contaminate the springs used by one in three county residents should be taken into consideration.”

Concerned about its watershed and adjacent industrial sites, in 1984 the City of Enterprise commissioned a hydrological study. The city’s letter said following lengthy hearings, the Board of Commissioners of Wallowa County on Nov. 7, 1984 adopted an amendment of the Wallowa County Zoning Ordinance which created a Watershed Protection Area overlay zone and contained regulations addressing risk to the city’s springs. The county’s adoption was appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, which affirmed the county’s action. 

Hostetter said the restrictions of the overlay were protection enough for the surrounding area and the zone change does not pose a threat.

“The watershed protection area survived the LUBA appeals – no further protection is needed,” said Hostetter.

Planning Director Harold Black said he’d have findings available for the commission’s signature at the January 29 meeting. The recommendation will then be considered by the Board of Commissioners at February meeting.