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Snowden Council Appeals County `Dwellings' Plan

Snowden Council vote to appeal was 7-0

In an appeal dated Nov. 3, the Snowden Community Council challenged Klickitat County's "determination of non-significance" (DNS) for proposed county code amendments and zoning ordinances that would allow "accessory dwelling units (ADUs)" on private property.

The appeal was directed to the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners and the Klickitat County Planning Department. It was in response to the county Planning Department's Oct. 13 memorandum proposing to eliminate provisions for "temporary use of a mobile home" and instead "allow a second home on parcels to remain permanently, subject to conditions." The amendment was geared to affect most unincorporated areas of Klickitat County.

The Snowden Community Council, an elected advisory body that represents residents and property owners of the Snowden/Burdoin Mountain area, voted 7-0 to appeal the county's plan.

The Snowden council's appeal document listed the following among its concerns:

The county's environmental checklist and DNS grossly underestimated the potential post-construction impacts of the proposed ADU regulations on air emissions, surface and groundwater withdrawals, waste material discharges, noise levels, traffic, aesthetics, and public services such as fire and police protection, by failing to consider the permanent impacts of multiple new dwellings. Instead, it focused only on the temporary impacts of construction activities. The ADUs and their occupants will have continuing impacts on air quality, noise, plants, animals and other environmental factors.

The ADU provisions would undermine the comprehensive zoning plan for the county, and could potentially have a much bigger impact on Snowden/Burdoin and other communities than the zoning changes currently being contemplated as part of the comprehensive plan review process. In essence, the ADU ordinance rewrites the zoning throughout the county without any comprehensive planning process.

The proposed regulations are sweeping in scope. In theory, they would permit the construction of a second home on virtually every lot in the Snowden/Burdoin area -- and throughout most of the county.

The county erred in stating that the ADU provisions are unlikely to "result in an increase that is beyond 110 new residents per year," and that "it is anticipated that less than 50 accessory dwellings will be built per year." There is no basis for these projections, which are nothing more than guesses ... the proposed ordinance would place no limits on how many ADUs can be constructed, nor on how many people could live in them.

The DNS failed to analyze the impacts of the proposed development regulations on existing "temporary" ADUs.

The proposed regulations are not consistent with Washington's Growth Management Act, which discourages sprawling, low-density development. Under the Growth Management Act, freestanding units must be considered the equivalent of separate dwellings. The DNS failed to evaluate the compatibility of ADUs with traditional resource-extraction activities such as agriculture, timber and mining. The Growth Management Act requires that development regulations shall "maintain and enhance natural resource-based industries, including productive timber, agricultural, and fisheries industries ... and discourage incompatible uses."

The DNS fails to provide any basis for the assertion that the proposed regulations will expand opportunities for affordable housing. The proposed regulations include no requirements that ADUs be affordable. By scattering new housing throughout rural areas, rather than close to public services, the proposed regulations will cause additional impacts that have not been adequately assessed.

"The Snowden Community Council has requested reversal of the county's DNS," read the closing of the appeal document, which was signed by Louis Huszar, chair of the Snowden Community Council.

The Klickitat County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the ADU proposal during its commission meeting on Dec. 12 in the commissioners' chambers at the county courthouse in Goldendale, beginning at 2 p.m.

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