No decision in city watershed

<p>Wallowa County Board of Commissioners drew a packed house for Monday's hearing on S&V's application to commercially rezone property in Enterprise's Watershed Protection Area. Attendees occupied all 33 chairs in the audience area.</p>

A landowner’s proposal to commercially zone 32 acres near Enterprise’s water source west of Joseph was put on hold Monday at the owner’s request.

Early in the March 4 hearing on the application before the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, attorney Rebecca Knapp, representing applicant S&V Properties and S&V principal Paula Krieger, asked the commissioners to grant her client 30 days to meet with city of Enterprise officials and the city’s engineers about the city’s water contamination worries. Enterprise government is on record opposing S&V’s application, a county land use matter.

Knapp told the board S&V had little intention of pushing the proposal through in adversarial fashion, and suggested that her client would even consider withdrawing the application entirely if the issues surrounding Enterprise’s drinking water couldn’t be addressed to the city’s satisfaction.

Paula Krieger’s husband, Steve Krieger, told commissioners and the standing-room-only audience at Monday’s hearing that he and his wife were interested in commercial zoning mainly to make the property “competitive” among others the U.S. Forest Service could soon consider for siting a new USFS facility. However, he added, the couple has “had very little” conversation with the Forest Service about that siting.

Steve Krieger also said the acreage’s current zoning – Rural/Residential or “R2” – would actually be more conducive to alternative uses the couple may pursue.

He reiterated Knapp’s earlier message about cooperating with the city. “What we don’t want to do is get into an adversarial position with the city of Enterprise over water,” Steve Krieger said.

Knapp also mentioned a 2004 water-related document – the 18-page Source Water Assessment Report, produced by the State of Oregon and included within the city’s much larger Water Master Plan – that she explained had only recently come to light. The report, she said, appeared to hold “some good things” from the perspective of her client’s proposal, but S&V nonetheless wanted more time to absorb it, and particularly to assess it in consultation with city engineers.

In an interview later Monday at Enterprise City Hall, Enterprise city administrator Michele Young confirmed that the 2004 report had slipped by city officials’ and others’ notice during the rezoning application’s first round of consideration at the county planning commission level. When Ron Neil, Enterprise’s public works director, happened across the document last week, he brought it to wider attention and the Kriegers were duly informed.

At the BOC hearing, Knapp and Paula Krieger both cited part of the 2004 report, which talks about “community-based protection” of water, a strategy that relies on landowner involvement. “‘We recommend that the protection plan be developed so as to minimize any burdens on individual property owners, but maximize the equity in responsibility for reducing the risks of future contamination,’” Knapp quoted from the report. She and Paula Krieger seemed to be arguing that the report’s spirit supported cooperation between the city and the applicant.

The county board Monday ultimately granted the requested 30-day postponement, but not before attorney Sadie Isley Kennedy, representing the city of Enterprise, briefly argued for proceeding with the rest of the scheduled March 4 hearing and having the BOC render its decision that day.

Kennedy told commissioners the city was “very much opposed to this extension” and that she was “prepared to make my arguments to you” about the application.

She couldn’t sway the commissioners to continue, however. Commissioner Susan Roberts, a former Enterprise mayor, expressed what she believed her stance would be if she were still in city government. “I would have taken the opportunity, if somebody proposed this to me, to sit down with the applicant... and work out any differences there.” In light of those circumstances, she added, “I don’t feel comfortable making a decision today.”

This story's original version misstated the springs' location in relation to Joseph.

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