The Wallowa County Commission voted unanimously today to deny a conditional-use permit for a bed and breakfast that got caught up in the ongoing controversy over wolves in northeast Oregon.
Diana and James Hunter want to expand their bed and breakfast onto a tract of land in an exclusive farm use zone. To do it, they need a conditional use permit from the county.
The property was split up and sold for non-farm homes years ago under House Bill 3326. But it’s still surrounded by ranches.
The bed and breakfast proposal drew strong opposition from ranchers in the neighborhood who saw many potential conflicts between ranching and tourist activities.
But another conflict loomed over the B&B proposal. The 16-acre property in question lies along the so-called “wolf highway,” where protected gray wolves have been attacking and killing local livestock near Joseph. And the Hunters had hosted pro-wolf tourists on the property last summer.
Last month, I attended one of the county’s hearings on the conditional-use permit, where several opponents argued the Hunters’ position on wolf management would add to the compatibility problems between their bed and breakfast and the neighboring ranches.
In a phone interview today, County Commission Chair Mike Hayward told me the permit application drew a lot more public comments because of the wolf issue. And he spent a lot of time reviewing them and considering their merits.
“I about wore the papers out going through this thing,” he said.
But in the end, he said, his decision came down to a matter of basic land-use planning, “where you put more intense development closer to cities rather than clear out by themselves where they don’t have services and tend to conflict more with the rural nature of the area.”
He decided the standalone bed and breakfast would have too many potential conflicts with ranches in an exclusive farm use zone.
“There’s a difference between a bed and breakfast on a working ranch or farm and having 16-acre parcel where the b&b is it – a standalone business surrounded by working ranches,” he said. “The potential conflict is much higher than if you’re part of a ranch operation.”
Diane Hunter said she thought the commissioners voted no because “they had so much pressure” from ranchers who don’t like the Hunters. She said she and James Hunter haven’t decided what their next move will be. They still have the option of living on the property or renting it out for a residence, or they could appeal the county’s decision.