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CRGC, county reach deal on Scenic Area regulations

Public hearing planned for Jan. 11


Gorge News Report

In a legal settlement reached this fall, Klickitat County will amend its zoning code to defer to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area regulations.

Meanwhile, since the county again declined to administer its own Scenic Area development review process, the Columbia River Gorge Commission will begin preparing language to extend its revised Management Plan, adopted for the entire Scenic Area in April, to lands within Klickitat County.

The timing of the two actions is coincidental, according to Jeff Litwak, staff attorney for the Gorge Commission.

Curt Dreyer, director of the county's Planning Department, said that the settlement wraps up a legal challenge brought against the county four years ago following the Board of Commissioners' adoption of zoning changes in the Dallesport area on Nov. 20, 2000.

The changes were challenged in court by the Gorge Commission and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, an advocacy group.

"We believed that the county made decisions inconsistent with the Scenic Area plan," Litwak said.

The settlement's result is that Klickitat County will add a new subsection with three paragraphs to the "Legislative Intents" section of its zoning ordinance.

The first paragraph specifies that development on land within both the Scenic Area and the county is subject to the Scenic Area regulations "in addition to" those of the county.

The second paragraph says that where the jurisdictions' regulations conflict, those of the Scenic Area supersede.

The third paragraph says that "applicants and landowners are strongly advised to contact the Columbia River Gorge Commission to determine what, if any, land use plans or regulations apply for any and all ground-disturbing activities ..."

"We will adopt this amendment and change all applications and brochures," to reflect the revisions, Dreyer said.

A public hearing on the zoning ordinance changes will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners' meeting room at the Klickitat County Courthouse in Goldendale.

"We did it the same way in other counties," Litwak said. "It is an alert to citizens to check with the Gorge Commission."

The settlement was negotiated for the county by Jill Long of Foster Pepper Scheffelman in Portland, Dreyer and Prosecuting Attorney Tim O'Neill, Litwak said.

Regarding the revisions the Gorge Commission will undertake on the county's behalf, Dreyer said the county "will be involved with the process. I've asked that we have every opportunity."

The Gorge Commission directed its staff, at a Dec. 14 meeting, to draft the new language. Gorge Commissioner Kenn Adcock coordinated with Dreyer.

"He is our front person," Dreyer said.

The Scenic Area plan changes adopted in April, for which the county provided input in two years' worth of hearings, were considered by many to be fair compromises, but portions were appealed by advocates on both sides.

Klickitat County's Board of Commissioners, up to and during the recent election, have steadfastly resisted adopting Scenic Area development review, citing high cost, among other reasons.


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