Though the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners appeared to be rejecting the Marr Ranch Subdivision appeals Monday afternoon, most in attendance left the appeals hearing just a little confused.
Bill Oliver and Harold Black from the Wallowa County Planning Department will have a lot of input on how the county commissioners rule on the appealed Marr Subdivision between Joseph and Wallowa Lake. The county planning director and deputy director left with instructions to write up findings by the end of the week.
County Commissioners Mike Hayward, Ben Boswell and Dan DeBoie will then study the draft findings over the weekend, meet Monday Feb. 9 to make corrections, then meet again
Thursday, Feb. 12 to make final decisions on five appeals to a Wallowa County Planning Commission decision made in November to approve the preliminary plat of a five acre, 11-unit subdivision.
By law the commissioners have until Feb. 14 to make their decision on the appeals.
The commissioners appeared to be accepting the planning commission's decision, but even Nez Perce Tribe staff attorney Rick Eichstaedt, representing one of the five appellants on the matter, left the meeting without a clear vision of what the legal findings would entail.
Oliver said that he would write one findings and five orders addressing the specific points in the appeals. He felt that his charge was to uphold the planning commission's decision with changes suggested during Monday's 2 1/2 hour meeting where no public testimony was taken.
At one point commission chairman Mike Hayward said, "Land use planning keeps getting harder and harder. And I don't expect it to get any easier."
A common point in appeals from the Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, Confederated Tribes of the Colville, city of Joseph and a three person consortium of Mildred Fraser, Liam O'Callahan and Lynne Price dealt with the fear that development of the property would endanger archeological dig sites.
The property sits adjacent to the Old Chief Joseph Burial site and underwent archeological searches in 1986 and 1990 by Manfred Jaehnig and Bruce Womack. They found two sites of cultural significance which are on the proposed property. Near the sites the Silver Lake Ditch, Knight's Pond and the Wallowa Lake County Service District pipeline have previously been dug.
DeBoie said that there had been much reference to the need for a Level 2 archeological site inspection but little data on what a Level 2 inspection entailed. From information he had gathered from the Forest Service he felt that Jaehnig and Womack's site inspection not only met criteria for a Level 2 inspection, but a more detailed Level 3 inspection as well.
Throughout the meeting Boswell encouraged a minimizing of ground breaking.
After the meeting Eichstaedt contended that the proper approach was to determine the boundaries of the significant sites, develop a management plan and only then consider adopting the preliminary plat which is under appeal. He would not say whether or not the Nez Perce Tribe would appeal a board of commissioner decision to uphold the planning commission's decision, saying that such a determination would be left in the hands of the Tribal Council. He did say, however, that the Marr Property constituted a very important issue for the tribe.
The proposed subdivision application was submitted by K & B Limited Partnership, the partnership of Paula Krieger and daughter Heidi Busick.
The paperwork through the planning commission hearings through the appeals is voluminous. Hayward said that he had read 50 pages of information supplied by the city of Joseph and still did not know what the city wanted done with the property. DeBoie agreed: "I don't have a clear message of what Joseph wants."
The commissioners spent a good deal of time discussing the Nez Perce appeal. Much less time was spent on the Umatilla and Colville appeals because they so closely duplicated arguments.
Individually, the commissioners dealt with eight assignments of error in the consortium appeal. Several assignments were judged to be moot because it was not a limited land use decision and because it was a quasi judicial and not a judicial matter.