The morning after

As someone who has endured plenty of meetings, including contentious ones — oh yeah, I was there in ’97, when Prune Hill residents stormed the Camas City Council chambers to successfully protest a proposal to allow manufactured housing on the hilltop — let me say Clark County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday at the Public Service Center was one for the books.

Not just for length, even though I usually get back to the office by noon from a 10 a.m. meeting and yesterday I got back just before 3 p.m.

But all of the topics were actually compelling.

Put it this way: The tamest subject was a tax increase.

First up, after the consent agenda, was public comment. Four people who live near Rotschy’s Yacolt Mountain Quarry told commissioners that the Storedahl mining operation has affected their well water, both quality and quantity, and described problems with heavy trucks taking corners too fast on Northeast Kelly Road.

The quarry neighbors were upset enough that Commissioner Steve Stuart felt as if he needed to remind them it was a different board of commissioners that voted in 2003 to overturn a hearings examiner and allow the quarry to open.

(For the record, then-Commissioners Craig Pridemore and Betty Sue Morris voted for the quarry, while Judie Stanton dissented. Morris and Pridemore told neighbors then that the county has zoned the Yacolt Mountain area for resource production, not rural living.)

All the current board can do, Stuart said, is make sure the company complies with permit conditions.

Neighbors were told Clark County Public Health and other agencies are looking into their concerns.

“Our goal is to get it right this time,” said Commissioner Tom Mielke.

It was an hour into the meeting before public hearings began.

First up was the 911 tax. I think a lot of the fire officials who were there were confident they had the two votes (Steve Stuart and Marc Boldt) they needed, so they passed on their chance to testify. Still, seven people spoke, all in favor of the tax.

Then it was on to an ordinance regarding group homes that was written to address Hazel Dell House, 7515 N.W. 15th Ave., a state-funded group home for teenagers in foster care.

The operator says he doesn’t need a conditional-use permit, so the county wants to clarify its code to make clear “adult family homes,” which are permitted, refers to adults, not teenagers.

The hearing was actually only on extending a temporary emergency ordinance, so this fight will go on for awhile.

Neighbors and the staffers who work with the teenagers are equally frustrated with each other. The young men who live at the home testified that this is the only home they’ve ever known and they don’t want to leave the neighborhood. Neighbors say the teenagers aren’t properly supervised and the county needs to enforce its own rules and make the business get a permit.

Commissioner Marc Boldt, normally the quietest of the three, expressed frustration with the state Department of Social and Health Services for not returning his calls about Hazel Dell House.

“Apparently they know I don’t live in Olympia anymore so they don’t care who I am,” said Boldt, a former 17th District legislator.

Mielke asked Marty Snell, director of the county’s Department of Community Development, why the state hasn’t stepped up to make sure the publicly funded home, which is operated by a private business, is in compliance.

“The operator has known since last fall they needed a permit,” Snell said. “If they are not responsive to a commissioner, I doubt they will be responsive to the director of a department.”

Operators say they were initially told they did not need a permit. Now that they’ve been told they need one, they argue they don’t.

Stay tuned.

At this point, it was 1 p.m., three hours into the meeting. Mielke called for a 15-minute recess.

Last on the agenda? Home rule. First there was a lengthy discussion about what the county did to promote the idea and how much it could cost, and how Administrator Bill Barron came up with that cost estimate.

Then 13 people testified.

Commissioners decided to just kill the whole idea. A quick, painless death to an idea that they’ve been talking about for more than a year.

So there’s a summary of my 31 pages of notes. If you think this blog is too long, well, you obviously weren’t at the meeting.

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