Did you receive a postcard and/or letter in the mail from the Wasco County Planning Department informing you of proposed changes?  Wondering what it’s all about?  We have prepared a FAQ to help guide you.  To read the entire packet, including proposed Chapters, staff reports, and public commets, please allow time to download the September 15th hearing packet: Packet

Both Ordinances were, on September 15th, recommended for approval to the Board of County Commissioners by the Planning Commission.  The Board of County Commissioners will hold the first hearings for both ordinances on October 7th.

Q: What is Wasco County 2040?

A: Wasco County 2040 is our multi-year update to the Wasco County Comprehensive Plan.  This plan is the long range (20 year) vision for land use planning in Wasco County and includes policies, strategies, maps and other data.  These updates are the last before the project is completed.

Q: What is Ordinance 20-001 and when will it be available?

A:  The language on the front of the card is required by state law.  The ordinance refers to the adopting document signed by the Board of County Commissioners to approve all changes.  Ordinance 20-001 pertains to proposed revisions to Goals 4, 5 & 8, as well as revisions to sensitive wildlife maps (EPD-8 and EPD-12) and the adoption of a destination resort eligibility map (proposed EPD-15).

We have a draft available for download or view: 20_Ordinance 20-001

Q: What is Ordinance 20-004 and when will it be available?

A:  The language on the front of the card is required by state law.  The ordinance refers to the adopting document signed by the Board of County Commissioners to approve all changes.  Ordinance 20-004 pertains to proposed revisions to the following chapters: Introduction, Plan Revisions Process, and Goal Exceptions.

We have a draft available for download or view: Ordinance 20-004

Q:  What are environmental protection districts (EPDs)?

A:  Wasco County protects a range of resources and controls development from natural hazards through environmental protection districts (EPD).  These are overlay zones that add additional criteria and regulations on top of the underlying zoning.  The two EPDs currently proposed to be refined are EPD 8 (Sensitive Wildlife/Big Game) and EPD 12 (Sensitive Birds).

Q:  How are the maps changing?

A:  Both maps have not been updated for several decades.  Based on new data from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) the maps are being refined.  This means some existing areas in the overlay zones will be removed while other areas not previously identified as containing a resource will be added.  While we cannot show the map for EPD 12, as the information is confidential, the proposed revisions to EPD 8 are here: https://wasco2040.com/2020/02/14/wildlife-habitat-overlay-zone-updates/

It’s important to note that when ODFW advises, as required by law, on any conditional uses in Wasco County they use their adopted maps, which are available for public viewing via their online COMPASS mapping system.  It is intended that our update, to reflect their updated maps, will help provide clarity and transparency to sensitive wildlife habitat and protections.

Q:  Will the map amendments prohibit any uses/activities from being permitted on my property?

A:  EPD 8 and EPD 12 do not prohibit uses and/or activities but instead work to mitigate negative impacts on the resource (animals and birds) through mitigation measures or development standards.  These are largely site specific and based on review from ODFW, but could include moving a house site closer to the road, limiting the time of year construction happens, and/or requiring lighting or fencing standards.

Q:  What are the other potential impacts to me if my property is included in one or more of the overlay zones?

A:  Additional criteria required by the overlay zone can mean a lengthier review by planning staff, including notification to neighbor time, and as a result, added cost.  While staff can’t predict all potential impacts to individual properties and uses/development, we do want to ensure the public is aware that inclusion in these overlay zones can add time and money to development.

In many cases, development can be revised (like changing the development site or moving construction timing) to permit the project while protecting the resource.

Q:  Why update this now?

A:  State law requires that when a county undertakes a Comprehensive Plan update, it needs to evaluate new data provided about resources and ensure protection.  ODFW informed Wasco County during our 2017 Wasco County 2040 vision phase for creation of our project work plan that our sensitive wildlife maps were out of date.  As a result, we included it in our proposed work plan which was approved by the Department of Land Conservation and Development in 2018.  You can see it listed as Work Task 18.

Planning staff intends this update to add clarity and transparency to implementation of our planning program.  This update also aligns our maps with those used by ODFW to make decisions and provide comment on development applications.  We hope the end result will be beneficial to everyone by providing clarity, protecting resources, and removing any unnecessary regulations by streamlining the process.

Q:  What does the process involve?

A:  The process to update the inventory, or maps, of resources includes

  1. Identifying conflicting uses.  These are uses that may present adverse impacts to wildlife.  We received public feedback online and at our in person meetings in February 2020 to help identify land uses that conflict with wildlife habitat.
  2. Defining the impact area.  This was provided by ODFW in the form of maps.
  3. Analyze the Economic, Social, Environmental and Energy (ESEE) Consequences:  We used feedback from the public, information from ODFW, and a review of wildlife literature to develop the potential consequences of three possible alternative scenarios (no restrictions, limited restrictions, and prohibition).  You can read this analysis in the appendix of the proposed Chapter 5 of Wasco County 2040: Chapter5
  4. Develop a program to achieve Goal 5, protecting the resource.  This includes proposed revisions to EPD-8.  You can view a strikes and underline version of the text here: Chapter 03 – 3.920 Senstive Wildlife Habitat Redline

Staff presented these proposed revisions and analysis to the Citizen Advisory Group on March 3rd and August 4th for discussion and further refinement.  The proposed changes will next be heard by the Planning Commission on September 1st and deliberated by the Planning Commission on September 15th.

Following approval by the Planning Commission, a recommendation will be made to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.  That final approval will be sent to the State Department of Land Conservation and Development for acknowledgment.

Q:  Why did you add an additional hearing date in September?

A:  Hundreds of residents  have been impacted or displaced because of the recent Mosier Creek Fire.  In the interest of public involvement, the Planning Department thought it was appropriate to move the deliberation portion of the hearing to September 15th while still allowing for an overview and public comment on September 1st.  We hope this additional opportunity to participate will allow for all residents and property owners to be involved.

Q:  The letter mentions changes to policies related to recreation and forest lands.  What is that about?

A:  Although not part of the official work plan, the remaining two Statewide Land Use Planning Goals to be updated are Goal 4 (Forest Lands) and Goal 8 (Recreation).  Both these goals have policies and implementation measures from the original 1983 plan.  In addition to being put into the new format, staff is proposing changes to update the policies and implementation to better reflect current status of resources and practice.  This material was presented to the Citizen Advisory Group in March and on August 4th.  We have some minor revisions to make, but you can view the proposed Chapters from those sessions here: Goal 4 Forest Lands  and here: Goal 8 Recreational Needs 

For more on the Forest Lands updates, please see this post: https://wasco2040.com/2020/01/07/forest-lands-updates/

In addition, with the updated EPD 8 data, Wasco County has the opportunity to adopt a map showing possible locations in the County for Destination Resorts.  This map must be adopted before Wasco County Planning can accept an application for a destination resort.

Destination resorts are developments that include overnight lodging, open space, and other recreational activities usually in enclaves not unlike suburbs.  Examples in Oregon include Sunriver, Caldera Springs, Brasada Ranch,  and Eagle Crest Resort.  To see the proposed Destination Resort Eligibility Map, please click here.


Once we have adopted a map, the next step will be to develop criteria and rules for destination resorts.  This will happen during our LUDO Update between 2021 and 2022.

The criteria and rules will guide applications for destination resorts.  We anticipate having many conversations with the public during the LUDO Update to address concerns like water, fire and infrastructure during that phase.

Q:  The letter also mentions an Introduction Chapter, and revisions to the Plan Review Process and Goal Exceptions Chapter.  What does that mean?

A: To make a more useful, user friendly document, staff has developed a comprehensive Introduction Chapter that provides the reader a guide to using Wasco County 2040, a history of planning Wasco County, a review of the Wasco County 2040 and much more.  You can view the proposed draft here: Introduction

To update the Comprehensive Plan, we use criteria and rules that are provided by state law.  We have made formatting changes to Chapter 11 and moved it to Chapter 15.  You can view the Plan Revisions Process Chapter here: RevisionsChapter

Any lands that are rezoned from a resource zone (farm or forest) are required by state law to be approved for what is called a Goal Exception.  The requirement is we maintain an inventory of Goal Exceptions in the Comprehensive Plan.  While we have not adopted any new Goal Exceptions during the Wasco County 2040 process, we significantly revised the presentation of this inventory to ensure compliance with state law.  You can view this revised Chapter 16 here: ExceptionsChapter

Q: How can I get involved or submit feedback about any of these changes?

We encourage public comment. You can mail us a letter (Attn: Wasco County 2040, Planning Department, 2705 E 2nd St, The Dalles, OR 97058).  You can submit a comment here on the website.  You can email the project manager (kellyg at co.wasco.or.us).

To help you prepare your comments for the maximum impact, we have drafted a brief primer on making effective comments here: https://wasco2040.com/2020/06/24/how-to-provide-comment-on-land-use-matters/

You can attend the Planning Commission hearing on September 1st or September 15th.  Due to restrictions with COVID-19, the hearings will be held electronically.  You can pre-register for either or both hearings by following links listed under events on the sidebar or by visiting the Planning Commission Upcoming Meetings and Agendas page: https://www.co.wasco.or.us/departments/planning/agendas_and_minutes.php

Due to the volume of material being presented, we anticipate limiting comments to 3 minutes per person.  The Department of Land Conservation and Development has prepared a primer on How to Testify at Land Use Hearings you can view to help make your comments have the most amount of impact.

We also actively promote information on our Facebook page.  You can also sign up to be on a notification list.

Thank you for your interest and engagement.