Whitehorse Park expansion proceeding

The Aug. 17 weekly business session of the Board of Josephine County Commissioners kicked off with a public hearing in consideration of amending the county’s comprehensive plan to allow for a Goal 3 exception allowing full hookup RV sites at Whitehorse Park.
A first reading for this ordinance was held Aug. 3.
Community Development Deputy Director James Black attended the meeting to give the “skinny” on the ordinance, as Board Vice Chair Darin Fowler called it.
Black called the process of getting a Goal 3 exception for Whitehorse granted a long one.
As a refresher, an exception to Statewide Planning Goal 3 is needed because Whitehorse Park, which was established in 1956 as JoCo’s very first county park, is zoned as farmland.
In past meetings where the RV site expansion project at Whitehorse was addressed, commissioners expressed confusion as to how the park came to be zoned for agricultural use in the first place.
An application filled out by JoCo Parks Director Sarah Garceau makes the case for the Goal 3 exception:
“This goal is inapplicable due to the fact that Whitehorse Park, developed in 1956, was established before Oregon’s current land use planning scheme. For the reasons outlined in the balance of this application, Oregon law supports a Goal 3 Exception for Whitehorse Park because the park has been so physically developed that it is not suitable for agricultural use, and because the park has been irrevocably committed to a non-farm use where surrounding uses and other relevant factors would make agricultural uses impractical.”
Black added during his presentation at the Aug. 17 session that the county’s Rural Planning Commission held two public hearings on the matter in February of this year and recommended approval of the Goal 3 exception.
He concluded that his department believes it is a “clean ordinance” due to the long, thorough process that was undertaken, during which no appeals were filed to the application.
Fowler asked Black to clarify the specific reason why a Goal 3 exception is needed to move forward with the Whitehorse expansion, to which Black replied the necessity centered on the addition of a septic system to the property.
“Technically it is not allowed in a farm zone unless you go through this process,” Black remarked.
“It’s been a long, long haul on this,” Commissioner Dan DeYoung commented. “It’s frustrating and I, for one, get impatient hearing it over and over and over again, but that is the process for public hearings, and we give every opportunity in the world… it’s surprising you didn’t get any appeals or anything like that considering how this started out.”
DeYoung recalled that it was “unpopular among certain people” to renovate Whitehorse Park, due to the fact that trees will have to be removed.
He praised Black for his “due diligence” in getting the Goal 3 exception finalized.
Fowler added, “Here we have government trying to help government in one of our parks and this process still took that long, because there were so many hurdles to go through. Sometimes that’s just the way it is… That gave us time to fully vet, and talk to the community about what’s really happening with the trees, and that this is one of our oldest, original parks and it’s gonna be a great asset in the future that now is underutilized.”
No citizens opted to speak during the public hearing, paving the way for both attending commissioners – Fowler and DeYoung – to vote in favor of amending the comprehensive plan to reflect the Goal 3 exception.