County unveils draft version of zoning ordinance

By Jayson Jacoby, The Baker City Herald

By TERRI HARBER

tharber@bakercityherald.com

The Baker County Zoning and Subdivision draft ordinance is ready for public review.

Planning Commissioners and county staff spent about five years working on the draft and have held numerous hearings, said Mark Bennett, planning director.

"We hope it's more user friendly," Bennett said of the draft, which will update the current ordinance written nearly 30 years ago in 1983. "The (planning) commission believes we've reached that balance between (property owners') legal rights versus the needs of the community."

Easier-to-understand explanations should make the permitting process simpler for people who want to subdivide, develop or purchase property in the county's unincorporated areas.

"People need to know what they can and can't do with their land," he said. "We've worked hard to try to make this new ordinance less cumbersome and provide a clearer picture of the process."

Portions of the current ordinance sometimes contradict one another as well. Obtaining consistency has been an important part of the long process behind creating the draft ordinance, Bennett said.

The zoning ordinance describes how land use is implemented.

It doesn't change actual "comprehensive land use, state law or zoning," Bennett said.

What does it do? The ordinance explains "how the process unfolds," he said.

Several overlays are included in the draft: airport, wetlands, flood plain, sensitive birds, limited use, big game habitat, and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

An overlay, which can affect the types of development allowed, applies to areas with special features such as historic structures, significant vegetation or flood risks.

Planning commissioners made changes to two chapters: transportation standards and mineral extraction.

There will be two public hearings so the county can find out what residents think about the document. The first one should be scheduled in April, Bennett said.

Bennett also said the county will send out letters to property owners to make them aware of the draft ordinance so they can evaluate it and determine whether it will affect them.

County Commissioners ultimately will approve the new ordinance after the next two hearings later this year.

Review the draft ordinance online at /www.bakercounty.org/planning/planning.html

There also will be some hard copies available for review at such locations as the county planning department, which is located in the basement of the Baker County Courthouse, and Baker County Library.

Hard copies of the weighty document are $65 each.

Call county planning at 541-523-8219. Their office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The current zoning ordinance can be seen online at: www1.bakercounty.org/BCZO.nsf/Zoning+Ordinance?OpenPage

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The Baker City Herald
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