By a unanimous decision, the three-member Crook County Court voted to uphold the county planning Commission's denial of the application for a church youth camp for the rural Mill Creek area.
>Reading alleged errors of the county planning commission, the county legal counsel stated the court's findings before that body voted to uphold the earlier denial
Since 1995, the proponents of a camp, Outreach Northwest, a Prineville-based non-denominational Christian Youth ministry, have attempted to get county approval. First the location was to be in the Ochoco Mountains near the Mount Bachelor Academy. Over the past three years or so, numerous public hearings, often contentious, have been held on a permit application for a site in the Mill Creek area. During these hearings, using expert testimony, maps and other displays, Outreach Northwest presented their plans. Opposing that organization, and producing nearly as large amount of explanatory material, were owners of adjourning Mill Creek properties plus 26 residents living in that area.
When the application was denied by the planners, that denial was appealed to the county court. Wednesday, the court found that the planning commission members had done their job, following state and county ordinances and laws, and upheld the denial.
Located about 6.25 miles north of Highway 126, 17 miles east of Prineville, the proposed camp was to have been built on the north, or uphill side of the road. It has been noted by both the planning commission and the county court that having a youth camp in Crook County would be an asset. But both bodies also agreed that the Mill Creek site was not the right location for such an operation.
In explaining their findings, each member of the county court had held individual discussions with county legal counsel. From those discussions, Counselor Jeff Wilson said a unanimous consensus was developed.
The standard on appeal, Wilson explained, was whether the planning commission made an error in fact or in law in making its decision. The applicant, he added, had alleged 16 different assignments of error.
The errors, according to the appellant Outreach Northwest, included the planning commission's concerns about the steep topography of the proposed location of the camp, impacts on nearby Steins Pillar, fire protection and evacuation routes within the camp. Surrounding land use, impacts on wildlife, water, access and parking were other issues Outreach Northwest's attorneys had cited as having been dealt with incorrectly.
One by one, Wilson read the claimed errors and followed by the court's findings. One by one, the findings were that the planner's action had been appropriate. The final error and the court's findings on it pretty well summarized the complete list: "Because the appellant failed to submit an accurate site plan, the Commission was unable to impose conditions related to the exact siting of structures and roads. Because the appellant failed to submit a grading plan, the Commission was unable to impose conditions related to erosion and landslide prevention."
The unanimous decision by the county planning commission, the court decided, was not done with any error in law or fact.
Following their own unanimous vote, each of the members of the court offered their own individual comments. Judge Scott Cooper said he was actually all in favor of having a youth camp somewhere in the county. "It would be a tremendous asset," he explained. "I hope the camp can be sited on another location."
Commissioner Mike McCabe echoed those words. "In my nine years of county service, this has been the most difficult decision I've had to make. I hope we can work together to find a more appropriate site."
Commissioner Jerry Crafton agreed and said he had attended a youth camp in his younger years, and knows the value of that experience.
The final decision will be drafted and voted on officially during the court's Dec. 19 meeting. It has not been officially decided yet, but it is believed that the county's action will be appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.