Over 40 people were in attendance at the Feb. 2 Board of County Commissioners Zoom meeting for discussion of two appeals filed against the County Planning Department issuance of a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) ruling for the proposed Under Canvas campaign resort development in Husum.

The appeals were filed by residents of Husum and White Salmon during the most recent public comment period for the project. The Planning Department also received several additional letters opposing the ruling, both from private citizens and other agencies.

Commissioner Jacob Anderson recused himself from the discussion, citing his involvement with the BZ Community Council and previous employment with the county. Commissioner Dan Christopher noted on the record that, beyond conversations on the campaign trail related to the proposed development, he had found one email during his tenure related to the project. Christopher was unclear whether the correspondence represented a conflict of interest and offered to put the question to those on the line, which included the Director of Real Estate for Under Canvas, and parties who had appealed the County’s decision. Christopher said he felt he could adequately and fairly hear arguments and decide on the matter, however, Commissioner Sauter noted the doctrine in question was related to “appearance of fairness” rather than one of self-assessment.

Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney David Quesnel advised the those in attendance that deliberation is often deferred under the circumstances of a possible split decision. Anderson was already out of the room, having recused himself earlier, and Christopher and Sauter determined the appeals would be sent to a hearings examiner. The Planning Department will coordinate with the prosecuting attorney to determine next steps and does not have a known timeline for future proceedings.

The board raised questions related to the fee schedule for appeals such as these to Planning Director Mo-Chi Lindblad during the meeting. Lindblad disclosed that she had determined the fee for this specific project to be set at $200, considerably lower than the $4,000 outlined in current county code. There are outstanding concerns regarding the equity of the existing pay scale for appeals, and the commissioners say they intend to continue to pursue policy updates as deemed appropriate.

Prosecuting Attorney Quesnel’s attendance at the meeting was conspicuously brief; during his comments he disclosed that “as a representative of the law” he could not participate in an “illegal meeting” and excused himself from further deliberation. His statement referenced a Feb. 1 memo issued from the State Board of Prosecuting Attorneys, which prohibits in-person meetings for the purposes of government business during state-determined Phase 1 of pandemic reopening. In light of this policy, BOCC meetings will take place with all members joining remotely from their own offices or workspaces at least until the region is approved for Phase 2.

(This story corrects an error in an earlier version, which stated Commissioner Anderson was involved in the process of referring an appeals matter to a hearings examiner. Anderson had already recused himself and was not in the room for this part of the deliberations.)