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Commissioners To Take Comments About Husum/Bz Sub-Area Plan

Proposal contains amendments

A revised sub-area plan for the Husum/BZ Corner Planning Area will be the subject of a Klickitat County Board of Commissioners public hearing today at the Pioneer Center.

The proposal contains amendments to zoning designations in the Husum/BZ Planning Area -- including the shifting of the 1,100 acres from the Resource Lands district into other zones -- as well as a Pilot Forest, Farming and Ranching Resource Protection Project. Today's hearing will run from 4 to 8 p.m., in the Senior Services dining room. Commissioners will be taking testimony on the proposed amendments and resource protection project only.

Last October the Planning Department issued an addendum to the Husum-BZ Corner Sub-area Plan Update that clarified the county's requirements and narrowed the scope of the proposal. The county began working on a 10-year update for the 50,560-acre planning area -- which encompasses approximately 79 square miles -- in 2007 but had its initial effort appealed by Friends of the White Salmon River that same year, following the Planning Department's issuance of a determination of non-significance per the State Environmental Policy Act. The Commissioners heard the appeal, then remanded the matter to the Planning Department for further analysis of water resources.

The Planning Department commissioned Aspect Consulting of Seattle to prepare a hydrologic report for the Planning Area. Aspect's report concluded the area had sufficient water resources to support the County's land use plan. With new information in hand, the Planning Department issued a mitigated determination of non-significance for its proposal in 2010. Two appeals of that determination were filed. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation filed one appeal. That appeal has settled and was dismissed. Friends of the White Salmon River, with Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Citizens for Common Sense on the White Salmon River, filed the other appeal, "However, rather than proceeding directly to litigation, the County engaged the services of a mediator to beter understand appellant concerns, and potentially settle the litigation. While settlement has not yet been achieved, the process proved valuable."

Because of what the County heard in mediation, Planning Director Curt Dreyer said the scope of the proposal has been narrowed. The result, he added, is an improved product.

The County's rationale for a more balanced approach to land use and development in the lower White Salmon River valley is laid out in the October 2011 addendum, which noted, "New residents wish to preserve the natural attributes which first drew them to the area, as do long-time residents. Tribal interests wish to preserve fisheries habitat and protect cultural resources, a concern shared by many others. And, most residents understand there are serious challenges with making a living from traditional farming, ranching, and timber activities. There is not agreement on how best to protect these resources, and individuals have submitted widely varying public comment to the County. But, if there is a common thread in the comments, it is a desire for the community to thrive economically and socially, while preserving the Planning Area for future generations. To balance these concerns, the County designed a land use proposal which mitigates impacts from expected growth. The centerpiece of the proposal is to focus development within a narrow portion of the Planning Area -- about 4 percent of it -- which is more developed than the Planning Area's outlying, rural sections. The County is also developing an incentive structure to encourage permanent preservation of land for natural resource use, while also decreasing densities and increasing setbacks along key areas of the White Salmon River."

The rezone proposal being considered by the Commissioners changes the zoning designations within the 4 Percent Area and would provide a "modest increase in capacity for residential growth (less than 300 homes)."

The 4 Percent Area is defined by its more concentrated development, infrastructure, smaller lot sizes and greater densities. According to the addendum, "The zoning changes are located within a comparatively narrow strip of land, which hews roughly to both Highway 141 and the White Salmon River. The vast majority of property outside this 4 Percent Area is allocated to natural resource-based uses."

In the 719-acre BZ Corner area, the County proposes no change in the Rural Center zone (129 acres, 5,000 square foot minimum lot size), an expansion of Rural Residential 2 zoning from 363 acres to 590 acres, and a decrease in Resource Lands zoning from 227 acres to zero.

For the Husum area's 1,523 acres, the County proposal calls for a reduction in Rural Center zoning from 406 acres to 163 acres; an increase in Rural Residential 1 zoning from one acre to 258 acres; an expansion of Rural Residential 2 zoning from 243 acres to 1,002 acres; and a decrease in Resource Lands zoning from 873 acres to zero. (Along Rattlesnake and Indian creeks, zoning densities are decreased and setbacks increased. A Wild and Scenic River Overlay also is proposed for RR2 zoning along the White Salmon River.)

"In practical terms, these zoning shifts mean that in Husum, RR1, and particularly RR2, zoning acreage increases, while Resource Lands acreage decreases," County Planner Mo-chi Lindblad wrote in a staff report. "However, because there is a 243-acre decrease in Rural Center, which is the densest zoning designation, total development potential does not significantly increase. With the BZ Corner rezone, less acreage is involved, with only a 227-acres shift of lands from Resource Lands to RR2."

Moreover, the addendum removes 209 acres of publicly owned lands from the rezone proposal as a result of mediation.

The Pilot Forest, Farming and Ranching Resource Protection Project (FFR) would do the following:

Provide a voluntary, market-based tool to encourage resource lands preservation while focusing residential development where infrastructure and services are located.

Encourage conservation of resource lands for resource use within the Husum/BZ Corner Planning area.

Provide a mitigation alternative when on-site conservation measures are not practicable, when using the FFR is preferable to on-site measures, or can address impacts more comprehensively.

Under the proposal, large lots zoned Resource Lands that are subject to the Resource Lands evaluation process are eligible for development credits if owners agree to not further divide specified lots. Also eligible for development credits are lots along the White Salmon River, Rattlesnake Creek, Indian Creek and Gilmer Creek where setback requirements are increased.

Those development credits -- issued by the Planning Department via a Credit Certifcate Approval -- may be transferred to eligible properties that fall under the South Husum Overlay. The overlay would be applied through the rezone process and allow property owners to develop under either the RR1 or RR2 zoning.

"Eligible properties are those which: (1) will be developed consistent with a minimum 200-foot setback from the White Salmon River, and (2) are within a public water system service area and serviceable by either (a) a community wastewater system; or (b) public wastewater system within six years, as demonstrated by a certificate from a relevant provider confirming service availability."

Additionally, the proposal contains an alternative banking option under which credits may be used to address habitat protection requirements, such as an alternative to mitigation required through the County's Critical Areas Ordinance.

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