By Gary Fletcher
Observer Staff Writer
ENTERPRISE A Joseph woman who wants to develop an upscale subdivision between Wallowa Lake and the city of Joseph says she won't sell her property to the government.
Paula Krieger is speaking out, through her attorney, in response to last week's announcement that Oregon's U.S. senators have joined the Idaho delegation's effort in seeking federal help to save the land adjacent to the Old Chief Joseph gravesite from development.
Krieger also says that soon, additional surveys will be done to establish the boundaries of two archeological sites on her 62 acres between Joseph and Wallowa Lake.
Two superficial archeological studies had been done earlier. Both studies, as well as the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, concluded that more ground probes need to be done around the two sites to determine how large they are.
The need for more probes is the basis of an appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals to try to overturn Wallowa County's conditional approval of Krieger's application for 11 five-acre homesites, and a private road.
Krieger is a principal of K&B Limited Family Trust, the applicant for the proposed Marr Ranch subdivision.
Representing K&B is attorney Rahn Hostetter. He notified Oregon's two U.S. senators in a four-page letter Tuesday that Krieger will not sell the 62 acres on the terminus of Wallowa Lake's moraine to the government, nor to any entity using federal funds.
Hostetter said the Nez Perce Tribe did not communicate directly with Krieger, but attempted to communicate through legal maneuvers and the media. He says that she has heard nothing from the tribe about its efforts to purchase her property.
Hostetter's letter said that Krieger's husband, Steve, "and his extended family have owned property and lived in Wallowa County for over one-half
"As owners of Joseph Timber Company, they have been active in the timber industry ... and have worked cooperatively with both of you," Hostetter said.
The Kriegers were disturbed that the senators did not search contact them before writing to Secretary of Interior
Gale Norton calling "for all options to be explored, including federal purchase of the land at fair market value...,'' Hostetter said. The Kriegers learned of the senators' letter by reading excerpts from it in The Observer, Hostetter said.
"Your letter repeats the early history of the Chief Joseph experience in Wallowa County, as do all the recent newspaper articles .... But there is more recent history of dealings among the Nez Perce, the United States and the Kriegers than the media, and now you, have ignored."
In 1991, the Kriegers "paid a price for the property that reflected its ... (zoning) for residential and commercial development."
At that time there was "every indication from the city, the tribes and the United States ... that the property (was) available and appropriate for development."
The tribe remained silent until 1994, when the Kriegers got preliminary plat approval for a subdivision there, Hostetter's letter said.
Then the tribe asked Congress for legislation for "the government to purchase the land, by condemnation if necessary, and thereby impede the Kriegers' efforts to use their property in conformance with applicable zoning laws," the letter said.
Former Sen. Mark Hatfield "immediately consulted with the Kriegers ... and learned that" they were opposed to selling to the government, the letter said.
"Their conviction (is) that taxpayer monies should not be used for such purposes (even if it benefitted them financially), and ... that the property would be an overall benefit to the local community."
Hatfield and "Congressman Bob Smith agreed to block all legislative attempts ... to take the property by condemnation."
The Kriegers agreed to withdraw their objections to the legislation if only eight acres were condemned.
"The tribe accepted the proposal, assuring ... that the eight acres (was) a sufficient buffer ... immediately adjacent to the Old Chief Joseph Cemetery" and "would protect the interests of the Nez Perce Tribe."
The condemned eight acres was reportedly purchased by the U.S. government for $250,000 in 1997. "Thereafter ... Kriegers (had) discussions with the park service and the city ... (but) little interest was shown in the property by the park service, the tribes or any conservation groups."
A Joseph city councilor in February said that the property had been assessed for $170,000, and that the applicant had it appraised for $1.5 million in 2002.
Then in 2003 the National Park Service reportedly had it appraised at $850,000.
In December, the Trust for Public Lands offered to buy the land for $1.2 million. That was refused, and no counter offer was made, tribal attorney Geoff Whiting said earlier.
"The city ... encouraged the Kriegers to proceed with plans for development," Hostetter said.
Hostetter's letter then went on to claim that "two archeological studies (show) some minimal finds of limited cultural significance ..." and "the Old Chief Joseph gravesite was cited in the comprehensive plan as a good reason for the city to encourage development of the property."
"Neither the ... tribe nor any citizen of Joseph challenged the adoption of the ... plan or the zoning."
Last year, when the Kriegers applied for a preliminary plat for a subdivision, the tribes again opposed the plan.
The Kriegers remained silent in past months as "the media proved largely disinterested in the landowner's side of the story,'' the letter said. "The media preferred the more compelling, but highly irrelevant, stories of the distant past," the letter said.
It also said that when the Kriegers learned that the senators' letter was released to The Observer "and errors began to be repeated all over again ... " under the name of the senators, the Kriegers were obligated to respond.
In an apparent attempt to correct alleged errors, Hostetter said that the county did not withhold approval, pending completion of more surveys .
Also, the city and the tribe's appeal positions are diametrically opposed, the letter claims. In order to conform to the city's comprehensive plan, "my client must amend the application to seek more intense development ... with city streets, sidewalks and smaller-sized city lots," Hostetter said.
"It is not clear to my client how the purchase of the remaining acreage ... will effect the Tribe's 'return' to any greater degree than has already been accomplished.
"The Nez Perce National Park located on the outskirts of Joseph includes the condemned eight acres."
The tribe also owns 10,000 acres of Joseph Creek Canyon. A coalition of three reservations and Wallowa County citizens developed the non-profit Tamkaliks pow-wow site outside Wallowa near where Old Chief Joseph was originally buried.
"In that sense they are back," Hostetter said.
The Kriegers don't have "any negative attitudes towards the cultural or historical passions of the Nez Perce," the letter said.