>After more than five years, a decision is expected to be made on whether or not to allow a church to build a youth summer camp on land near Mill Creek
August 21, 2001 -- Once again the county planning commission will have the application for a permit for a youth camp in the Mill Creek area before them.
   The county planners have held three public hearings on this contentious issue since the first of the year and expect to finally make a decision tomorrow night.
   Early this year, Outreach Northwest filed for a conditional use permit for a youth church to be built in the Mill Creek area, northeast of Prineville. The youth camp proposal has a history in Crook County that goes back a number of years. Originally made by a Lebanon, Oregon, Baptist church program called Outreach Northwest, the proposal was for a youth camp facility to be located on the north side of Highway 26 about four miles west of the Wheeler County line. Although that request was approved, the camp was not constructed and the permit expired.
   The next application for a permit to build on part of the 193-acre Steins Ranch was made in 1999. That request was denied by the planning commission for a number of reasons. Early this year the applicants refiled their application saying that all issues had been addressed and corrected. Since then, more public hearings were held on the permit application, the last being early last month.
   Following several hours of hearing from attorneys and expert witnesses from both sides of the issue, the planning commission brought a halt to the hearing. Everyone was told that no further public hearings would be held although written testimony from the public would be accepted for another few weeks.
   With piles of information, books, photos and graphs presented by each side, the hours of recorded testimony and other information provided them, the commissioners took time to study all aspects of the application. Tomorrow evening, the commissioners will debate on the question among themselves and make their decision.
   That decision is not expected to be the end of it, however. Both sides have indicated that they will appeal the planning commission's decision. Such an appeal would be presented to the county court. Even that isn't expected to be the final decision. Further appeals are sure to find their way to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Expectations are that ultimately, the matter will end up in court.
   The meeting, to be held in the council chambers at city hall, begins at 7 p.m.
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