In a 3-0 vote, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners rejected an appeal from the Snowden Community Council and granted Louis Huszar the right to rezone 80 acres of his Snowden property from "extensive agricultural and forest resource" to "general rural."
The Jan. 14 ruling permits Huszar to divide his "Echo Glen" property into five-acre parcels, which may be sold as residential lots.
"The ruling was all in my favor," said a relieved Huszar. "The commissioners decided there was nothing in the appeal to negate the Planning Commission's decision."
The vote by the commissioners upholds a unanimous decision by the county's Planning Commission in August.
Huszar said he believed many concerns raised by community members who opposed the rezoning were unfounded.
"I'm going to go about this very slowly," he explained. "I just don't think this area is ready to build a big subdivision up here. I plan to sell one or two parcels to start. I have not raped the land in 26 years, and I don't plan to start now."
The County Commissioners offered a six-point rebuttal to the issues raised in the appeal, determining:
Rezoning is consistent with goals and policies of Snowden's comprehensive plan;
There has been substantial change in circumstances since the last rezone;
The rezone has a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, and welfare;
No procedural errors have been found in the way 1987 amendments to the Snowden subarea plan were processed or adopted;
The State Environmental Policy Act process was not flawed;
The rezone is not arbitrary and capricious and does not constitute a spot zone.
Chris Connolly, president of the Snowden Community Council, said the County Commissioners did not listen to the community's concerns.
"I don't think they considered any of our points," Connolly said. "We're not being represented. It's development at all costs, no matter the cost to the community."
Connolly said the Community Council will meet soon to decide whether to pursue any further legal action.
Huszar said he hoped there would be no more appeals.
"Chris Connolly (chair of the Snowden Community Council) can still drag this thing out by appealing to Superior Court, but I do feel good about this decision, after months and months," Huszar said. "I've been working on this for two years. At least I can breathe easier."
Huszar pointed out that there was no 20-acre zoning when he bought the property in 1975.
"There is such a thing as property rights and that was a big issue for me," he said. "I'm satisfied that the system works and satisfied that county government listened to reason."
Huszar said he too is sorry to see the pear orchards go.
"The bottom fell out of fruit farming," he explained. "When you get two cents a pound for fruit and it costs a dime a pound to grow it ... it went that way for four years. I spent my own money to try to keep it going, kept thinking it would turn around. I wanted nothing more than to live a quiet existence and grow some fruit."