Protection for Crook landmark is sought

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: January 02. 2007 5:00AM PST

As the city of Prineville moves toward approving its first comprehensive plan, the issue of defining and protecting Barnes Butte has reared its head again.

Kim Kambak, a member of the Crook County Planning Commission, sent a letter this week to Prineville and Crook County officials and local developers questioning the city’s timeliness in fulfilling an agreement it made with her earlier this year.

Kambak filed an appeal as a private citizen in January 2006 with the state Land Use Board of Appeals after the city approved the development plan for IronHorse, a Brooks Resources subdivision in Prineville that will eventually include more than 2,900 homes. Kambak wanted to define and protect Barnes Butte, which abuts the IronHorse development.

Barnes Butte is visible from much of downtown Prineville and takes up a chunk of the northeast corner of the city. The land owned by Brooks Resources for IronHorse rises most of the way up its southwest side.

The city, Brooks Resources and Kambak entered into a settlement agreement in August, which ended the appeal. In the settlement, the city agreed to finish an economic, social, environmental and energy analysis on Barnes Butte and other natural resources by Dec. 1. But a consultant team is still working on the analysis. Kambak said she would like the document to be included in the comprehensive plan.

“I certainly understand that the city is under tremendous pressure with growth, and so this hasn’t been on the forefront of some people’s minds,” Kambak said. “I’m not being critical, I’m just saying these are timelines that we need to look at and we need to make sure that everything that needs to be in the plan gets in the plan.”

Kambak said she wrote the letter because she is worried that the city is going to adopt a new comprehensive plan “without the proper documentation” on the boundaries of Barnes Butte and how to protect it in the future. She added that she is not considering any legal action.

Prineville City Manager Robb Corbett said any delays in fulfilling the agreement have been due to turnover in the city’s planning department. A team of consultants is currently working on the Barnes Butte analysis.

One section of the settlement agreement allows for “reasonable extensions if the City cannot meet the identified benchmarks for reasons beyond its control, including, but not limited to, delays caused by the consultant team or unexpected difficulties in collecting inventory data.”

“We’re not dragging our feet on anything,” Corbett said. “We’re working diligently with the county and with Kim to answer questions and try to be as cooperative as is humanly possible.”

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gillham said that another element of the agreement – a meeting with a “facilitator familiar with land use planning and community growth” for city and county officials – is scheduled for Jan. 16. According to the agreement, it was supposed to take place by Dec. 15.

Gillham said he was “puzzled” by Kambak’s letter.

“Having been meeting with her and talking and working through it, to be honest I would have thought she would have brought the concerns to me so we could resolve them,” he said.

Corbett said that the City Planning Commission approved the draft comprehensive plan at its last meeting and forwarded it to the City Council for approval. The plan does not require the consent of the County Planning Commission, he said, but city councilors have said in the past that they would prefer the county sign off on the plan.

Even if the analysis is not completed by the time the City Council adopts the comprehensive plan, protections for Barnes Butte can be enacted in the future, said Deborah McMahon, a planning consultant for the city.

“We’re not required to have that all done before we adopt a comprehensive plan because a comp plan’s just required to be policy guidelines and directions,” McMahon said. “The work we’re doing now (on the analysis) will be supportive of regulations that occur in the future, but we don’t have to have that completely done for the comp plan to go forward in its adoption.”

The draft of the comprehensive plan already includes protections for natural resources like Barnes Butte, according to excerpts provided by McMahon. After the plan is adopted, she said, the city will adopt specific ordinances to protect the area.

McMahon said that the city will hold a public hearing at the second council meeting in January, on Jan. 26, to discuss the analysis.

According to the Crook County Comprehensive Plan, under which the city currently operates, Barnes Butte is protected as a statewide Goal 5 resource. Goal 5 in Oregon’s statewide planning goals covers open spaces, scenic and historic areas and natural resources. But when Kambak filed her appeal, she discovered that the county had never completed the data collection for an analysis that would have been necessary to enact ordinances protecting the butte.

“Everybody thought that Barnes Butte was protected … I don’t want the city to make the same mistake the county has made,” Kambak said. “You can’t do ordinances unless you have that piece of paper that says, ‘This is what this is and this is why we think it should be protected and this is how we want to see it protected.'”

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