Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — A dispute over a proposed cabin in the Lostine River Corridor is back in the hands of the Wallowa County Commissioners.

In 2013, the county’s planning department issued Steve and Rene Bilben a zoning permit to build a cabin on their Lostine Canyon property. The couple’s attorney Rebecca Knapp said the county determined Steve Bilben had perfected his permit in June 2016 following the installation of a well.

According to county records, the Bilbens’ neighbors Mike and Monica Eng and Kate Loftus appealed the zoning permit to the Wallowa County Planning Commission in October 2016. Concerns were raised that the county hadn’t followed proper procedures when it issued its permit — no official notice was given to neighbors within 750 feet, no public hearing was held and no notice was published in a local newspaper.

Later a group called “Friends of the Lostine Wildlife Area” also appealed. The “Friends” were concerned the construction would adversely affect wildlife living on the state’s 1,000-acre wildlife area adjacent to the Bilbens’ property. The planning commission and county commissioners denied the appeals and determined “Friends of the Lostine” had no standing because their appeal was untimely.

In 2017 the Engs and Loftus appealed the county’s issuance of the zoning permit to the Oregon State Land Use Board of Appeals. In March the Board of Appeals issued a long decision and remanded the matter to the county for further factual standings including whether or not Loftus was adversely affected by the issuance of the permit.

The Board of Appeals decision also ruled the Engs appeal was untimely.

Knapp represented the Bilbens at a special county commissioner meeting held April 18 at the Wallowa County Courthouse.

“LUBA said the Engs knew about the zone permit for several months before they filed their appeal,” Knapp said.

While the Board of Appeals did not require the county to hold a public hearing, County Attorney Paige Sully said the commissioners allowed oral and written input from the public before rendering its decisions.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer