Utilizing a legal window of opportunity for land purchased between 1993 and 1985, Woody and Megan Wolfe of rural Wallowa were granted permission to build a house on a 38-acre parcel of land located on the southwest side of Highway 82 between Wallowa and Lostine.
Woody Wolfe convinced the Wallowa County Planning Commission last Tuesday night in the second public hearing on the matter that a portion of the parcel, some 8 1/2 acres he said, was not commercially farmable because of seasonal irrigation.
The decision will not become final until the findings of fact are adopted at the planning commission's April meeting.
According to land use laws parcels created after 1993 and before July 1, 2001, must have more than 50 percent of the land not suitable for farming before a house can be built and those with ownership prior to 1985 are considered lots of record and can have one house built without going through the planning commission.
Commissioner Floyd Hoofard pointed out that all 38 acres would come out of farm deferral and be taxed accordingly. Planning Director Bill Oliver says that farm deferral land pays about 10 percent the taxes as does nonfarm deferral land. It was suggested that whoever buys Wolfe's land and builds the house could lease out the additional 30 acres and, though taxed at the higher rate, still remain in farm use.
Planning Commission Chairman Rick Hanson, who abstained from voting on the issue, expressed concerns about a house being built on prime farmland. "It is in the heartland of our farming ground," said Hanson after the public hearing had been closed.
Interesting enough, with only five members the commission did not approve the conditional use permit on the first vote. Commissioner Jim Stonebrink initially voted against the CUP, leaving the commission shy of the four votes needed to pass. He then moved to reconsider and changed his vote when the issue was presented for a second time.
Neighbor Ed Scott testified against the CUP, arguing that the seasonally irrigated land was still good enough for pasture land and thus still under agricultural use.
Any construction on the site, for septic purposes, will be contingent on Department of Environmental Quality approval.