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Gotts annexation plan goes to council

White Salmon to hear proposal at work session

In an attempt to resurrect an annexation plan earlier rejected by the city of Bingen, property owner John Gotts was scheduled to meet with members of the White Salmon City Council in a special Jan. 11 work session.

Gotts hopes to annex approximately 50 acres of land in the Dry Creek Canyons above Bingen into the city of White Salmon.

At the meeting, Gotts will present his objectives for the annexation proposal.

"Mr. Gotts wants to give the council an update on what his plans are," said White Salmon Mayor Linda Jones. "I'm anxious to hear what his plans are, too. I have no details on what he intends to do."

On Tuesday morning, Gotts said the meeting was intended to address the annexation plans only. He said he was disappointed when the city of White Salmon sent, on Jan. 10, a two-page list of items -- related to possible subdivision development on the acreage -- it wanted him to address on Jan. 11.

"This meeting is not about a subdivision," Gotts said. "It's for annexation of property into the city of White Salmon. They gave this list to me -- and it goes on for two pages -- and want me to show up with all this for them. Does the city want to take the taxes out of the county and into the city? It would be silly not to at least annex in and take the taxes. We'll discuss a subdivision later."

Gotts said he felt the request for extensive details of what might happen on the property was not fair.

"I intended to go to an annexation meeting. That's what I thought it was," Gotts explained. "Instead I got 24 hours notice to tell them what my entire plan is. They're trying to move me 10 steps ahead. I'm not there yet."

Mayor Jones said she agreed with Gotts' assessment of the way the meeting should be handled.

"In an annexation decision, the City Council can only vote on changing the boundaries, not on anything else," Jones explained. "Ultimately, whatever his [Gotts'] plans are will have to go before the White Salmon Planning Commission, and there will be a public hearing for that."

Gotts purchased the land from Merlin Vezina in 2004. Vezina failed in his efforts to annex the property into the city of Bingen in 2001.

Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel said Vezina originally planned a 45-lot subdivision on the same property.

On Aug. 21, 2001, the Bingen City Council voted 3-0, with one abstention, to reject Vezina's "notice of intent to commence annexation."

"There was concern over potential development and we didn't have a good subdivision ordinance at that time," Prigel explained.

Prigel said the concerns he has now are the same ones he had when the Bingen City Council decided against accepting the annexation.

"If done correctly, it could be a good development. But there is a lot of potential danger," Prigel cautioned. "The issues are the same, whether it's in White Salmon or Bingen: safe access, fire control, runoff control, slope stabilization. I'm concerned that if development is done, it's done in a safe manner, so we don't get landslides and serious runoff adding to flooding in Dry Creek, or wildfires that are a danger to residents and to our emergency service personnel, who would have to go back in there."

The steepness of the slopes in the area could also create hazards for those trying to drive after a snowfall, Prigel added.

As a result of these concerns, Prigel urged the city of White Salmon to look at the plan with a critical eye, and maximize opportunities for public comment.

"I'm concerned about White Salmon's appetite for development at this point," Prigel said, "and how it may affect their judgment. They are pretty hungry for development."

Gotts stressed that no definite plans have yet been created.

"They want to know the number of lots and lot sizes," Gotts said. "They're assuming I am so egotistical I am going to decide what's going up there. I'm not going to do that. I will ask people what they want to see there. I need a comprehensive plan created by the entire community, and I don't mean just by the mayor and the City Council. If this town doesn't want a subdivision, it's not going to happen."

Prigel pointed out that Gotts recently donated $17,200 to White Salmon to allow the city's pool to be open this summer after the city failed to provide pool funds in its 2005 budget. He questioned the appropriateness of that move.

"People with land-use plans donating large sums of money to the city? It's nice they're donating money, but it sure looks funny," Prigel said.

According to Mayor Jones, the City Council will next discuss the Gotts annexation proposal at its Jan. 18 meeting at the White Salmon Fire Hall. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

"I'd like to see annexation go forward. Other than that, I can't comment," Jones said.

White Salmon City Council member Susan Benedict said she was looking forward to hearing details of the Gotts plan on Tuesday evening.

"It's going to be a very interesting meeting," Benedict said. "It will all be good information to have."

A report on the Jan. 11 meeting will appear in the Jan. 20 issue of The Enterprise.


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