A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Louis Huszar in his bid to rezone approximately 80 acres of land from primarily agricultural use to residential.
The decision clears the way for Huszar to divide the acreage into five-acre parcels that could be sold as residential lots.
In 2000, Huszar first petitioned to rezone his "Echo Glen" property, formerly a pear orchard, from "extensive agricultural and forest resource" to "general rural." The altered zoning designation would allow five-acre lot sizes on Huszar's 80 acres, while the existing comprehensive plan for the Snowden area mandates lots with 20-acre minimums.
The property is on Snowden Road, about three miles up from the White Salmon city limits.
The Klickitat County Planning Department approved Huszar's rezoning request, and the Planning Department's decision was unanimously adopted by the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 14, 2002.
Adjacent landowners Cheryl Charap and Will Pickel subsequently appealed the rezoning, claiming that the land use decision was an "erroneous interpretation of the law"; that the land use decision was not supported by the evidence; and that the "decision was a clearly erroneous application of the law to the facts."
However, Judge Michael Schwab of Yakima forcefully rejected all three claims.
"The total record does not support the claim that the Planning Commissioners misunderstood or disregarded the law of rezones," Judge Schwab wrote in his Aug. 26 decision. "The court has determined from a review of the record that a fair-minded person would be satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to support the decision approving the rezone ... the court agrees with the respondents that the land use decision is not clearly erroneous. The rezone of the Huszar property does not result in an illegal spot zone ... the court finds that the request by Huszar to rezone his property to `general rural' is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan."
In his conclusion, Schwab stated: "It is the conclusion of the court that the decision of the Klickitat County Planning Commission and the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners to approve the rezone of the Huszar property is hereby affirmed."
When contacted Friday, Huszar said he had not yet been informed about the judge's ruling.
"That's good news. Wonderful," he said.
Huszar did not elaborate on his immediate plans for the property. However, when the rezoning was originally approved by the County Commissioners in January 2002, he said he expected to proceed slowly, selling "one or two parcels to start."
Huszar said the market for fruit had fallen way off in recent years, making it uneconomical to continue to work the orchard.
Chris Connolly, chair of the Snowden Community Council, said she was disappointed with the judge's decision.
"It blows a hole in our zoning," Connolly said. "It means zoning by rezoning, and dismisses the idea of a comprehensive plan."
The Community Council at one point voted to appeal the county's rezoning of the Huszar property.
"We represented the desires of the community," Connolly explained. "There was a lot of concern expressed, mostly about (lack of) water and increased traffic."
The council's appeal was later withdrawn, however, and instead two local citizens (Charap and Pickel) filed their own appeal.
Neither Charap nor Pickel could be reached for comment by press time.