As announced in a letter sent out in October, the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Monday afternoon in regards to south Wallowa Lake and its possible future as an unincorporated resort community. Because the letter was mailed out to property owners so long ago the board's first public hearing actually precedes the first hearing before the Wallowa County planning commission. That hearing is scheduled for April 29.
Wallowa County Planning Director Bill Oliver had been working with a broad based citizens committee and came prepared with maps of both existing zoning at the south end of Wallowa Lake and zoning proposed by the committee. The proposal would change a large segment of Wallowa Lake property, including 166 acres at the Wallowa Lake State Park, from residential recreational (R2) to commercial recreational (CR2) zoning.
Large segments of property owned at the south end of Wallowa Lake belong to the Wallowa Lake State Park, the Boy Scouts of America and the Wallowa Lake Methodist Church Camp. The proposal made by the South Wallowa Lake Citizens Committee would also have transferred the Boy Scouts 110 acres of land from timber/grazing to CR2 and left the Methodist's 62 acres of property in R2.
Methodist Church Camp co-director Miranda Lovegren, who along with husband and co-director David Lovegren had submitted a letter earlier on the matter, was on hand to request that the board of commissioners consider creating a third zone to include the large parcels of land owned by her camp, the Boy Scouts and the Wallowa Lake State Park. She contended in her letter that the interests of the church camp would be better served in a CR2 zone than in an R2 zone, but felt that the three entities "all are nonprofit or government organizations established for the purpose of enhancing some aspect of community life in the world, as per the stated purpose of each organization. It seems reasonable to at least look into the possibility of a third zoning designation for lands operated by these three organizations," the letter said.
Fourteen people attended the hearing and most spoke out about the proposed zoning changes.
June Colony, who worked previously on non incorporated designations in the county, testified that a portion of the proposed change of timber/grazing land owned by Pacific Power could not legally be changed to CR2 as proposed. Though Pacific Power owns 138 acres of land at the end of Power House Road (Hwy. 351) and all is proposed for inclusion in CR2, Colony said that only land in campgrounds and at the generator site could be legally changed.
Tom Groat of Pendleton, whose family has owned land along Hwy. 351 since 1963, read a long letter stating his opposition to changing properties along the highway from R2 to CR2. He called it an "unnecessary zone change."
Bill Wittemire spoke out for the Wallowa Lake Tramway in support of the proposed zone changes, especially the proposal to include the tram corridor in CR2.
Jude Graham said that she is very much in favor of more commercial development at Wallowa Lake, but suggested that water problems need to be addressed before additional commercial development can be supported at the south end of the lake.
Joe Ehrler and Duane Wiggins, both property owners at the south end of the lake, voiced no opposition to the proposed changes. Ehrler suggested that individual property owners should have the say on how their land is developed and Wiggins said, "This is a sensible approach of what needs to be done."
Bill Clemens spoke briefly for Pacific Power, noting that an appraisal of their property will be made this spring.
The hearing was continued to May 19 at 1:30 p.m.