By NANCY LEMONS
The Dalles Chronicle
Columbia River Gorge Commissioners made clear Tuesday that discussion of a general land-use topic in plan review would not necessarily lead to new uses in the National Scenic Area.
But some gorge residents and county planners are hopeful it will.
Making only a few changes, commissioners adopted a list of general land-use issues recommended by commission and Forest Service staff for further study and discussion under the Congressionally-mandated management plan review. The initial list of general land-use topics came from comments gathered during public outreach when citizens, gorge counties and other stakeholders were asked to offer input on what should be included in plan review.
In Tuesday's meeting, senior commission planner Allen Bell and Forest Service planning team leader Virginia Kelly went through the issues, offering explanations on each as to why they were recommended or not recommended for further discussion.
Some of the criteria for inclusion on the list considered if the topic was the subject of appeals, a "headache" to implement, if it was a priority of a partner agency or one of the counties, or if the issue had received many comments during public outreach. With some of the issues, new land uses will be considered which could mean business expansion for some gorge residents.
Of interest to bed and breakfast owners, the commission will take under consideration whether or not to allow such operations to host additional commercial events -- weddings, corporate parties, and festivals. Currently, gorge wineries located in lands designated "residential" are not allowed to operate a tasting room or makes sales, although they are allowed to grow grapes and process them. Commissioners will consider whether or not to allow this new use.
Wasco County planner Todd Cornett urged gorge commissioners to consider allowing temporary mining as a means for scenic enhancement. Cornett said the county has not worked out any details, but they have an idea to reclaim about a dozen non-operating rock quarries along the Historic Columbia River Highway (Highway 30). Rock removed would be sold to fund the land enhancement at the site, according to Cornett. The commission added mining under "enhancement projects" to the list for further plan review discussion.
"Clean up" tasks such as correcting omissions or errors in the management plan are also included. For example, under "additions to dwellings" the first part of the plan contains guidelines for additions, but the second part does not include additions in the list of "review uses." Plan work will also involve clarifying definitions and guidelines such as those with cluster developments.
Commissioner Kathy Sheehan cautioned restraint in piling on additional land-use topics which may not be real problems warranting further study. Dave Robertson agreed with her sentiments and reminded the commission about financial limits of the plan review budget. He and Sheehan both voted "no" on a motion from Ken Adcock, commissioner from Klickitat, to add "schools" for further discussion.
According to commission and Forest Service staff, they chose to not place schools on the list because only one person made a comment on the issue, asking for new schools to be allowed in the general management area. Also, there have been no appeals, litigation or implementation problems, said commission staff.
Jurgen Hess of the Forest Service suggested some related issues could be discussed later under the specific topic of "economic development," which the commission will take up later in plan review. Congress mandates that the gorge commission review the National Scenic Area management plan every 10 years to see how well it is working to fulfill the intent of the 1986 Scenic Act -- protect gorge resources and provide for economic development within designated urban areas.
Land use, along with scenic resources, is considered the most complex of the 17 broad issues the commission will address during plan review, according to commission staff. For more information or related plan review documents, visit www.gorgecommission.org or call 509-493-3323.