By JESSE BURKHARDT
Following a Feb. 23 public hearing at the Pioneer Center, a decision is expected soon on whether the Snowden area's proposed new "comprehensive plan and zoning update" will be accepted by county officials.
The zoning plan was crafted after more than three years of work by members of the Snowden Community Council and local community members.
In brief, the council's plan allows for some additional five-acre minimum zoning to meet residential needs for potential population growth. The five-acre minimum parcels are generally located in the "lower Snowden" area (closer to White Salmon). The five-acre zoning area would be from approximately Wnuk Road north to the base of Lockhill Road.
Most of the rest of the area within the Snowden comprehensive planning area is preserved as 20-acre minimum parcels under the designations of "extensive agriculture," "forest resources," and "open space."
At last week's hearing, members of the Klickitat County Planning Commission listened to testimony for and against the proposed plan for Snowden.
Louis Huszar, chair of the Snowden Community Council, said he was pleased with the response from most of the citizens who attended the session.
"The citizens who got up there at the meeting essentially supported the plan," Huszar said.
Huszar said one of the biggest issues in the community remains the availability of water.
"Everybody is concerned with water," Huszar explained. "Some places in upper Snowden have had problems with their wells, and they had to dig deeper. People are concerned with that. Most people brought that issue up."
Snowden council members are unwilling to approve further five-acre zoning when there is no guarantee there would be enough water for added residential development.
"We're asking the county to get involved with some kind of water study, but there has been hefty resistance to that," Huszar added. "The Planning Commission doesn't want to commit the city to the kind of cost it would take to do a water study up in Snowden."
The estimated cost for an in-depth study of water resources is in the range of $35,000.
"That's serious money," Huszar said.
According to Huszar, the Snowden Community Council's process has been very thorough.
"We've been at this for the better part of four years," Huszar said. "We created community surveys, the county did a buildable lands survey, we talked with a whole host of concerned parties to come up with a plan, and then hired a professional planner to put it all together."
Huszar added that the last rewrite of the council's plan was at the prompting of the Planning Commission.
"We rewrote the plan according to [Klickitat County Planning Director] Curt Dreyer's comments," Huszar explained.
At this point, Snowden's council members can only wait for the Planning Commission to make a decision.
"They can accept the plan and recommend it to the County Commissioners; they can reject it outright; or they could ask for more modifications," Huszar said. "We'll wait and see what the Planning Commission does, then the Community Council can determine what the next step ought to be, based on the decision."
The council's effort has not been lost on local residents.
"Kudos are due to the Snowden Community Council for all the time and effort spent on behalf of many of us," said Snowden's Steve Gibson. "I've made only a handful of meetings over the past several years, and have admired the amount of work and effort."
On Friday, Dreyer said he did not anticipate a decision at the Planning Commission's March 16 meeting. Dreyer pointed out that only five of the nine Planning Commissioners were at the Feb. 23 hearing.
"We didn't have the full Planning Commission at the Feb. 26 hearing, so I suspect they won't make a final decision on March 16," Dryer said. "It's great to have the full Planning Commission present, and when we don't -- for something this important -- they end up having to listen to tapes. It takes a while to get up to speed. They will have to discuss it, and individuals always have their concerns."
The Planning Commission has left the public record open and will continue to accept written testimony on the draft proposed comprehensive plan and zoning update for Snowden until 5 p.m. on March 13. Comments can be mailed to the Planning Department at 228 West Main St., MS-CH-17, Goldendale, Wash., 98620; faxed to (509) 773-6206; or e-mailed to: planning@co.Klickitat.wa.us.