County addresses outdated zoning classification

The Sept. 14 Board of Josephine County Commissioners’ weekly business session took place at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
The meeting kicked off with a public hearing to consider a zoning change to a property that currently houses the Grants Pass Over-Niters RV park.
Tami Smith of the JoCo Planning Department gave the rundown on this proposed zoning change, noting that the comprehensive plan map for Josephine County would be amended to reflect the change.
“The subject property is 5941 Highland Avenue,” said Smith. “It’s an existing campground/RV park from around the 1960s.
“Just to recap, the Josephine County Planning Commission held a public hearing May 23, 2022, and a decision of approval for the comprehensive plan map changes comply with the amendments of the Josephine County and state law.”
Smith pointed out that no appeals were filed in response to the planning commission voting in favor of the zoning change.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung sought clarification on how an RV park could avoid being zoned commercial for so long, and Smith said it was because the establishment of the campground in the 1960s predated county zoning laws, which went into effect in the 70s. This zoning change brings to a close half a century of improper classification for Grants Pass Over-Niters.
“Jiminy Christmas, how did this thing go that long?” DeYoung expressed. “I’m glad we’re trimming that off and getting it marked up the way it’s supposed to be.”
Meeting frequenter Judy Ahrens was concerned about the implications of rezoning residential land as commercial, such as if an increase in traffic will be seen or other nuisances for nearby residents.
In response, DeYoung stated, “Anytime there’s any zoning change or anything, there’s a really long process that goes into it. First off, this thing’s been there since 1965, or somewhere along in there, but they send out, I think 10 adjacent property owners get a letter of any kind of zone change, and an opportunity with a long process to respond to what’s going on and share their concerns.”
DeYoung also found it unlikely the new commercial zoning would affect traffic, given that the property has been a business for decades and is already filled to capacity often.
“Our planning department, sometimes I disagree with them, but I’ve found they’re pretty malleable when they say, ‘You really need to go out and look at that.’ And oftentimes they’re right… They’re the professionals in this organization so we rely on them heavily.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger agreed with his colleague’s conclusions, commenting, “We didn’t have any land use or any of that until 1973 with Senate Bill 100, then it took another 10 years to actually get a handle on regulating all that, so we’re into the ‘80s. This activity has been taking place since the ‘60s. And Judy, there was a list of letters that went out to every government agency you could ever think of to comment on this, and the citizens, so to get to this point, where we’re actually reading this, it’s a long checklist.”
The commissioners approved the zoning change’s first reading and scheduled the second reading for Sept. 28.
Moving on in the agenda, the week of Sept. 17-23 was proclaimed U.S. Constitution Week.
Commissioner DeYoung read the proclamation aloud, which stated in part, “Our U.S. Constitution means an opportunity for each, protection for all, justice for everyone, and liberty, both civil and religious, for the strong and weak, and for the rich and the poor.”
The brief proclamation also recounted some of the historical milestones of the holiday, including: The signing of the first draft of the US. Constitution was by 39 delegates Sept. 17, 1787; President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed in 1955 the first U.S. Constitution Week; and in 2004, at the urging of Senator Robert E. Byrd of West Virginia. Congress passed a law designating Sept. 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.