Friday, April 20, 2007

Camas County leaders approve wide-ranging rezone

Express Staff Writer

The Camas County Commission approved a series of sweeping changes to the county?s zoning ordinance on Wednesday. The changes include a significant amount of rezoning on thousands of acres scattered across the Camas Prairie, shown in this map.

Following more than a year of often-heated debate, the Camas County Commission voted Wednesday to overhaul the county's zoning and subdivision regulations at a public meeting in Fairfield.

The three-member commission approved a series of amendments to the county's zoning ordinance, the most significant of which will eliminate the Agricultural Transition zoning district as an available type of zoning in the county, Commissioner Ken Backstrom reported by phone April 18.

The revisions have been highly controversial for some county residents, who have made that very clear throughout most of the public hearings. In addition to questioning the legitimacy of the amendment process, those against the changes have questioned the location of certain areas of increased density in the county as well as placement of certain non-residential uses in select areas.

One of the most notable of these changes is the placing of a commercial zone in the upper reaches of Soldier Creek near the Soldier Mountain Ski Resort.

Still, Backstrom said the changes were necessary given the possibility for significant growth in the county. The changes, which have also generated support among many other residents, will allow officials to better manage that expected growth, he said during an interview in March.

"I think we need to be thankful that we're ahead of the curve and we haven't had a huge population boom," Backstrom said.

Until now, Camas County landowners had been able to come to the county and request Agricultural Transitional zoning on any property.

The zoning ordinance amendments approved Wednesday will eliminate that opportunity. However, they will give property owners whose property is zoned Agricultural Transition four years to submit development applications before the county will consider rezoning those properties to a type of zoning district they chose as part of a new public hearing process.

Under the previously existing Agricultural Transitional zoning standards, a density of up to one home per acre was allowed.

As part of the larger county regulation overhaul process, the County Commission also approved a number of amendments to the county's subdivision ordinance at a meeting on April 9, Backstrom said.

Previous to that, commissioners approved a number of changes to the county's comprehensive plan land use map and zoning map at a meeting on March 29.

Specifically, the changes include the elimination of the Agricultural Transition District as a type of zoning shown on Camas County's comprehensive land use map.

The comprehensive plan land-use map is essentially the county's vision for how they would like to grow in the future, and doesn't actually change any on the ground zoning.

The changes to the Camas County zoning map are more extensive, and include a variety of rezones that will increase the available density on properties scattered across thousands of acres in the county and adjacent to the city of Fairfield, the county's only incorporated municipality.

The areas rezoned on the map have until now been within the county's Ag-80 district, which allows only one home per 80 acres. Much of the rezoned acreage is located within several miles of Fairfield, Camas County's only incorporated community.

Also, because of concerns expressed previously by Fairfield Mayor David Hanks and the Fairfield City Council, the County Commission voted March 29 to instate an emergency six-month moratorium on subdivision applications for private lands located in a select 9-square-mile area surrounding the city. The moratorium was put in place to accommodate the concerns of Fairfield officials that allowing increased density within their proposed area of city impact will harm the city's ability to attract prospective landowners who might wish to request annexation into the city.

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