PENDLETON -- A group seeking to block commercial wind turbines in the Blue Mountain foothills has withdrawn its application to create a 200,000-acre scenic view area in Umatilla County.
The proposal by the Blue Mountain Alliance was scheduled for a public hearing today by the Umatilla County Planning Commission. The hearing at the Pendleton Convention Center has been canceled.
Richard Jolly, the alliance member who filed the application, said he withdrew it so changes can be made "to clear up issues that need to be addressed." As soon as the changes are made, the plan will be resubmitted, he said.
The alliance wants to amend the county's Comprehensive Plan to create a Blue Mountain Scenic View and Open Space Area that would be protected as a Goal 5 resource. Goal 5 is one of 19 statewide land use planning goals under Oregon state's administrative rules and covers resources such as wetlands, scenic waterways, mineral and aggregate lands and historic areas.
The group wants to stop or limit placement of commercial wind turbines they feel would degrade the scenic landscape stretching toward the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The proposed scenic view area would cover an area east of Highway 11 to the Umatilla County-Union County line and extending from the Oregon-Washington state line on the north to the Umatilla Indian Reservation on the south.
The county Planning Commission has held two previous hearings on the proposal, the first June 25 and the second July 23. The second hearing drew an estimated 150 people, said Tamra Mabbott, county planning director.
At the July meeting, many people voiced concerns that the proposal would restrict far more than wind turbines and would infringe on the rights of private property owners to place cell phone towers, commercial signs and other large commercial facilities on their land.
Jolly said that prior to the July meeting he had asked the Planning Commission for a continuance to allow time to add an amendment that would address other resources besides open space and scenic views. But that request was turned down and they were also told that what the alliance wanted to add was more than what could be done with an amendment.
"We felt the county was moving towards a determination on the viewshed only," Jolly said Wednesday. "It's more than that, it's all the environmental issues."
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318.