There will be more study before any rezoning changes are approved for the Husum-BZ Corner planning area.
On the evening of June 9, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners voted to remand the proposed comprehensive plan and rezoning of the Husum-BZ Corner area to the Klickitat County Planning Department staff for further study before a final decision on the plan is made.
In a public session held at the Pioneer Center in White Salmon, the commissioners said they wanted several studies completed before again considering zoning changes for the area.
"They have to do a hydrological study, and review wildlife impacts, and address the other concerns raised by citizens in the 2007 hearing," explained County Commissioner Rex Johnston. "All those things will be looked into before we get going again."
The commissioners' move put the brakes to what had been a controversial proposal.
One section of the proposed rezoning plan called for roughly an additional 1,000 acres to be set aside for two-acre residential lot sizes, replacing the existing 20-acre minimums in those areas. Some citizens warned that level of added development could have major impacts for the State Route 141 corridor between White Salmon and Trout Lake.
During a lengthy public hearing at the Pioneer Center on Sept. 6, 2007, the County Commissioners discussed the proposed zoning changes with area citizens and representatives of the Husum-BZ Community Council. Over the course of five hours, a number of citizens expressed their concerns, including an anticipated shortage of water for increased development, impacts to White Salmon's well field, increased traffic congestion, fire safety issues, and impacts to wildlife.
"The hydro study alone will take at least a year," Johnston said.
The rezoning plan was created by members of the Husum-BZ Corner Community Council with input from local citizens during a lengthy series of hearings.
Husum-BZ Corner Community Council Chair Jerry Smith said the rezoning proposal will be on hold with the Klickitat County Planning Department until the hydro study is completed.
"They are just covering the bases," Smith said.
Smith added that he did not consider the county's ruling a setback.
"I expected it," Smith said. "I'm not at all disappointed, it's part of the process. It's appropriate that there is a hydrological study, so we can lay this thing to rest."
The vote to send the plan back for further review came on a 2-0 vote, with commissioners Ray Thayer and David Sauter agreeing more studies were necessary.
Both Sauter and Thayer expressed concern for groundwater resources, and Sauter specifically mentioned potential impacts on White Salmon's wells.
"A big concern of mine is water availability. Any time we have planning efforts, water is a key aspect of that. Groundwater and water resources are very important to me, and we didn't feel we had enough information to make an informed decision," Sauter commented. "We've got to have water resources to support whatever level of development there is. And there were wildlife issues as well."
The county is expected to hire a consultant to complete a study of potential groundwater impacts of various levels of development.
Once the new reports are completed, the public will be given time to comment on the results.
"I'd like to hear people's comments on the new report prior to moving on," Sauter said. "We'll gather this information and make a new report, then go back to public review."
Sauter pointed out that he did not see any need to send the entire plan back to the Community Council to have the process started over.
Thayer added that it was mainly a matter of exploring the ramifications of increased housing development in the area.
"We need more information to feel comfortable about what we're doing," Thayer said.
Johnston pointed out that, because he is relatively new to the County Commission, he did not participate in the decision process regarding the Husum-BZ rezoning.
"I recused myself because, although I've read the minutes of the hearings, I have not listened to the five or six hours of tape," he explained. "And since there is emotion involved, I figured I should recuse myself until I'm totally up to speed on this issue."
Johnston was appointed to serve on the Board of County Commissioners as of Jan. 1, 2008, after most of the hearings on the rezoning plan had been held.
Thayer and Sauter thanked members of the Husum/BZ Corner Community Council for their hard work, and pointed out that a revised plan for the Husum-BZ area is overdue.
Approximately 60 people attended the Monday evening meeting.