Oral arguments pending for Wallowa Lake property

Bill Oliver

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) will hear oral arguments July 22 in Salem concerning the 61-acre plot of land known as the Marr Property, located between the City of Joseph and Wallowa Lake. The owners of the property, K & B Limited Partnership, have proposed an 11-parcel subdivision that has passed the Wallowa County Planning Commission and the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, and has now been appealed to LUBA. The property is adjacent to the grave site of Nez Perce leader Old Chief Joseph, designated by Congress as part of the National Nez Perce Historical Park.

LUBA is expected to make its decision on the matter Aug. 13, said Wallowa County Planning Director Bill Oliver. Either side could then appeal the decision to the Oregon State Court of Appeals.

Controversy over the site has been voiced since the 1970s, with many persons simply opposed to any development on the property, Oliver said.

He said that the property in question has been zoned for residential development and been listed as part of the City of Joseph's urban growth boundary since the mid 1980s. According to Oliver, K & B Limited Partnership met all of the criteria for development in the residential development and urban growth zones and could not legally be denied its application. The Planning Commission, however, did put 12 conditions on its approval.

A major argument against the application as addressed by appellants from the Nez Perce and Colville Indian Tribes is that the proposed subdivision is located near the Old Chief Joseph Burial Grounds and should be made the subject of archaeological tests before the land is developed. Oliver claims that the establishment of boundaries in compliance with the state archaeologist is one of the twelve conditions and that K & B Limited Partnership cannot proceed with its development until the conditions are met.

The City of Joseph, according to Oliver, is arguing that the proposed subdivision is not of a high enough density for its urban growth boundary.

On July 22 LUBA will hear up to one hour of oral arguments, one half of an hour allotted to each side.

Arguing in favor of the development will be Enterprise attorney Rahn Hostetter, representing K & B Limited Partnership. Arguing against the application will be legal counsel for the Nez Perce Tribe Rick Eichstaedt, attorney Stephen Suagee for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville, attorney Mark Tipperman for the City of Joseph and intervener petitioner Mildred Fraser.

If development is not the desired end for the 61 acres, Oliver suggested that someone not wanting to develop the site buy the land or that the county and City of Joseph join forces to rezone the property.

Oliver said that he would not be surprised if the matter was remanded back to the county. "I would be pleased, but astonished if LUBA said everything was perfect."

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