County holds off on UGB decision

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer September 20, 2013 10:09 am
Union County commissioners opted Wednesday to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials before making a decision on La Grande’s Urban Growth Boundary expansion and rezone.

The La Grande City Council voted last week to send a letter to the county commissioners requesting a final decision on the matter, but commissioners said the county’s relationship with the FAA is too important to jeopardize by acting without the FAA’s approval.

Commissioners voiced concern over the UGB expansion and rezone at their Aug. 21 meeting because the current Union County Airport Master Plan prohibits water impoundments within 5,000 feet of the airport overlay zone. The land involved in the expansion and rezone would fall into that perimeter. FAA officials told commissioners that mitigation measures could be applied to the overlay zone but that the airport master plan should also be updated.

Rather than approve the changes, commissioners said Wednesday they wanted to have a meeting with someone from the FAA to determine what they should do.

“FAA suggestions are more than suggestions,” said Commissioner Steve McClure, referring to the FAA directing the county to update the airport plan.

McClure said the federal fiscal year ends Oct. 1, so after that would be the best time to meet with the FAA. He said they could perhaps do a letter of agreement and work something out before having to go through the process of updating the airport master plan, which could take several years.

“I think there are a lot of different ways to approach that,” McClure said.

McClure said he was frustrated along with the City of La Grande over the time and money that has been spent to get the exchange and rezone finished. La Grande officials have spent about seven years working on the project. Commissioners plan to address the issue again at their Nov. 13 meeting.

Also at the meeting Wednesday, commissioners approved a matching funds agreement with the federal government to move forward with overlay and rehabilitation work on a 15-mile stretch of Palmer Junction Road. 

The agreement, commissioners said, documents the county’s intent to meet match requirements for funding. Work on the project is expected to start in 2016 and be completed in 2017.

County commissioners also heard testimony in a public hearing regarding potential changes to industrial zones. The county applied to amend the zoning ordinance for heavy industrial land to prohibit aggregate mining. Proponents of the change said the move would only affect about six locations in the county and that land can be difficult to reclaim for other use once it has been mined. Opponents said the move could hinder access to important minerals and that land could in fact be reclaimed.

Commissioners decided to tentatively approve the application, despite the planning commission recommending that they deny it. They also directed staff to compile findings on the issue for their final decision.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.