The Wasco County Board of Commissioners will hear testimony Wednesday on a request to change land owned by six property owners in nine tax lots from Forest F-2 zoning requiring 80-acre lot sizes to Forest-Farm requiring 10-acre lot sizes.
The rezoning hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Wasco County Courthouse, Room 302, in The Dalles.
The change, which the Wasco County Planning Commission has recommended for approval, would create an exception to Statewide Planning Goal 4 related to forest lands, and exempt the area from the proposed fire safety standards in the Sevenmile Hill Forest Protection Overlay Zones, and instead rely on LUDO Chapter 10 for fire safety standards.
The subject tax lots are located south of Sevenmile Hill Road, south of its intersection with Richard Road and east and west of Osborn Cut-off Road, about 4½ miles northeast of The Dalles.
In addition to the above changes, the recommendation for approval includes a condition prohibiting the co-mingling of wells. The commission also encouraged creation of a planned unit development design.
The change would affect almost 288 acres with an average lot size of 33.67 acres.
The area is part of the Transitional Lands Study, developed in 1993 in response to concerns about development in Northern Wasco County, particularly on Sevenmile Hill, the county planning staff report said. Issues the study examined included groundwater availability to serve domestic needs, fire hazard, conflict with wildlife and available lands for “rural residential lifestyle in this developing areas.”
That study resulted in retention of some zones and rezoning of others to smaller lots sizes.
“As a result of the TLSA study, eight parcels of F-F (10) land in the Sevenmile Hill area north of the subject property were converted to R-R (10), removing the requirement for conditional use review,” the report said. “In recent years, the county has approved single family dwellings that have subsequently been built on nearly every lot surrounding the proposed exception area. In addition, there are five existing dwellings within the proposed exception area, in the F-2 (80) zone.
The proposed zone change would seek to apply F-F(10) zoning to all or a portion of eight parcels
“This would allow potential development of a maximum of 22 rural residences…” the report said.
The Planning Commission hearing yielded a number of objections to the plan from nearby neighbors. Property owner Richard Murray, a former well-driller, said a number of wells in the area are going dry. He also expressed concerns about fire danger.
Sandee Burbank homesteaded on Sevenmile 35 years ago and has since had to drill a second well. She expressed concern about well co-mingling of wells. She also expressed concern about the effect on unique species in the area including bobcats, wolverine, several varieties of woodpeckers and other birds.
Property owner Bob Gross said that attempted development of some of the properties in the proposed overlay was thwarted by water concerns. He said before the request is approved, the county should require owners to prove water is available.
Other land owners expressed concern about fire dangers.