Forest Service building in limbo

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer June 21, 2013 10:19 am

S&V withdraws re-zone application with Wallowa County

S&V Properties withdrew its application with Wallowa County to rezone property next to the Joseph Airport.

The original application said that S&V wanted to rezone the 33-acre parcel from residential to commercial in order to enter a bid with the U.S. Forest Service to build new facilities, including an office, barns, warehouses and pasture. 

The Wallowa Mountains Office, which housed two districts and other natural resources offices, was destroyed by fire in July 2010. Since late that summer, the Forest Service has used the former Joseph Elementary School for its offices. Rhonda Shirley, Joseph School superintendent, said the lease between the school and the Forest Service is up in January and can be renewed.

Rebecca Knapp, attorney for S&V, said in a letter to the county commissioners dated June 12 that the Forest Service and the General Services Administration continue to delay releasing specifications for the proposed property.

The Forest Service forwarded all questions about the replacement of the Wallowa Mountains Office to the firm Jones Lang Lasalle of Denver. Its representatives said they were unable to release any information.

Last fall, S&V was approved by the Wallowa County Planning Commission to rezone a piece of property in Joseph from residential to commercial. Knapp’s letter said the planning commission recommended approval because “there was no evidence that a change in the zoning of the property will cause any damage to (Enterprise’s) water source.”

Knapp went on to say that if the re-zone had been approved and S&V had submitted a proposal with the Forest Service, a more detailed zoning application would have been filed and ruled on before construction commenced.

The matter then went before the county commissioners for a public hearing, but S&V requested several extensions in order to address the City of Enterprise’s concerns that the proposed building site was too close to the city’s drinking water supply.

Studies conducted by consultants for both S&V and the city concluded that any runoff from the proposed site would flow toward the Wallowa River and not the city’s springs.

A public hearing by the commissioners was scheduled for June 13, but since the application was withdrawn, the hearing was closed.

“If and when the Forest Service releases specifications for the anticipated facility, my client will then determine whether to resubmit its application for a zone change,” Knapp said.