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.

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.  This update is the second to last series 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.  Its not yet available, because we are waiting on public feedback to inform the proposed changes.  We anticipate the actual ordinance being ready some time in August or September.  However, if you are interested in the materials we are presenting to the public they are available on this website.  To see the proposed maps and take part in the analysis survey/exercise, please read this post: https://wasco2040.com/2020/02/14/wildlife-habitat-overlay-zone-updates/

Q:  What are environmental protection districts?

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/

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 restrictions 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 vision phase 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.  This is one area we will be asking for public feedback about.
  2. Defining the impact area.  ODFW has given us this with the new maps, and we will be able to make some refinements based on our analysis.
  3. Analyze the ESEE consequences
  4. Develop a program to achieve Goal 5, protecting the resource.

Once the analysis and program are complete and developed, staff  presented that to the Citizen Advisory Group on March 3rd for discussion and further refinement.  Due to COVID-19, staff received an extension from DLCD to defer the Planning Commission hearing until a later date.  We anticipate that hearing to occur in August or September.  All property owners will be renoticed ahead of that hearing.

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:  What can I do to help or get involved?

A:  Staff is actively seeking public input on two critical components of the analysis and process: conflicting uses and ESEE (Economic, Social, Environmental and Energy) consequences.  We will make available, at the meeting and online, by the end of the month opportunities to give feedback about what uses might be exempt from protections because they don’t present a conflict.  For instance, some forest and farm uses are, by law, exempt from the EPD 12 (Sensitive Birds) rules.  The public may share information that farm uses like grazing or crop production don’t prohibit big game migration and should be exempt.

The next critical area for public input is on ESEE consequences.  For instance, if restrictions on farm use present a severe financial hardship, staff will be able to include that in the analysis and recommend an alternative scenario for protection or no protection.

You will be able to give this critical feedback at our public meetings in February and March or online.  To learn how to give online feedback via our survey, see this post: https://wasco2040.com/2020/02/14/wildlife-habitat-overlay-zone-updates/

Q:  The postcard 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 be put into the new format, staff is proposing changes to update the policies and implementation to better reflect current status of resources and practice.  The proposed revised Chapters will be available for public review one week ahead of the March 3rd work session.

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.