It was the meeting that wasn't. Although the city of White Salmon had planned to hold a public hearing on the John Gotts/Stonecliff Development annexation plan on April 6, those arriving discovered the meeting had been unexpectedly canceled.
The White Salmon City Council's consideration of the proposed annexation of 27.5 acres of land belonging to Gotts had been removed from the agenda. The City Council was expected to finally make a decision on whether to annex the 27.5 acre parcel into the city of White Salmon.
However, on Tuesday, the property owner, John Gotts, decided to postpone the hearing until a development agreement between his business and the city could be finalized.
"The annexation needs an agreement in place first between the city and Stonecliff Development that says exactly how many lots will be up there and where they will be," Gott said.
Gotts explained the agreement will address specific items not in the city's current ordinances for subdivisions, including items such as what the setbacks and height restrictions will be.
Mayor Linda Jones said she concurred with Gotts' decision to delay the hearing.
"He called and postponed it, although I was going to recommend extending the public hearing," Jones explained. "A development agreement needs to be drawn up before it goes to the City Council."
A new date for a public hearing on the annexation plan has not yet been scheduled.
Jones said she hoped a deal between the two parties could be drawn up within about a month.
"It will go to the attorneys. If they sign off, we can go forward," Jones said. "I expect one more public hearing on this."
"I've been told six to eight weeks by the city," Gotts said.
Jones said the delays were necessary to ensure a mutually-agreeable development agreement was in place.
"We want to make sure it's done right, so there are no problems," she said. "It's a very unique annexation, and it's a learning process for us, too."
Jones said the city is also in the process of revising its zoning and subdivision ordinances.
Gotts pointed out that he supports the concept of a development agreement, but believes the city should have proposed it earlier to avoid the extra delays.
"They need a contract that sets parameters for the buildout," Gotts said. "There has to be a signed agreement. We're happy to see this happen, but wish it had happened seven months ago when we started."
Gotts again stressed that he would hire experts to design and execute any development on his land.
"Let me say this one more time. I'll do every study that needs to be done, or I can't do the development. It's the law," Gotts said. "I'll make sure the houses are done in a way that is pleasing to the eye, not crowded, not row to row houses. What I leave here is my legacy. I don't want to screw it up."
While the development agreement is in the works, Gotts said he plans to go ahead and begin building on about eight acres of land he owns that is already within the White Salmon city limits. He wants to develop housing on property located in the Jewett Creek area behind Skyline Hospital. The property is zoned for R-3 development, which allows multi-family housing.
The decision by Gotts to postpone the public hearing came just a day after a public meeting was held at The Creamery to discuss the proposed development of the property. On the evening of April 5, Gotts, who sponsored the event, discussed possibilities for the parcel with a crowd of about 35 citizens.
Some in the crowd expressed support for developing the area, while others said they had reservations about the idea.
The entire Bingen City Council, as well as Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel, came to the meeting to repeat their concerns about building on the area above Bingen.
"These concerns incorporate emergency service access, water runoff, diverted stormwater erosion, landslides, rockfall, runaway objects, and the level of development and how it impacts the scenic backdrop, which is an integral part of our community," read an excerpt from a statement submitted by the city of Bingen.
Others wanted to see the development of the property move forward soon.
"I was brought up in Bingen. I think it's the best thing I've ever heard of," said one citizen at the meeting. "We want to bring jobs here."