In a notice published Jan. 6, Klickitat County Planning Department has reissued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) for the proposed Under Canvas resort camping development slated for Oak Ridge Road in Husum.

The ruling, issued to the company on Christmas Day, states: “Klickitat County has determined that the Proposal… would not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment.” According to County review, amendments made to application materials for the 95-tent upscale glamping project outline sufficient mitigation measures, as described by the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), to bypass a full-scale Environmental Impact Study.

The county memo includes a four-page Threshold Determination, outlining 43 distinct points that Under Canvas must follow to ensure compliance with the ruling. These guidelines cover a breadth of future permitting and planning obligations, including approval of a Forest Practices Application from the State Department of Natural Resources, and a firefighting plan, to be developed with Klickitat County Fire District No. 3 that assesses the district’s capabilities to respond to fire emergencies.

Revised application materials, and full text of the decision, can be found on the County  Planning Department website. 

State and local government agencies, environmental law firms, and county residents raised a range of concerns about the development during its last public review period, which closed Sept. 18. Topics cited include habitat destruction for protected species, inadequate infrastructure, and increased fire danger—issues that some claim remain unresolved.

Michael Lang, Conservation Director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, is not convinced by the updated plans. “As proposed, the project, an urban scale development in forest land, is incompatible with surrounding land uses and should be denied,” Lang says. Staff lawyers for Friends of the Gorge previously issued the County similar guidance. “At a minimum, preparation of an environmental impact statement should be required,” says Lang.

Oak Ridge Vineyards sits on property adjoining the proposed development. Owners Marlene and Thomas Woodward supply grapes to several local wineries and continue to wonder about a new neighbor’s impact on their business, especially with regard to fire danger and water resources. Of the 43 listed mitigations, they observe that many assume future compliance with stated guidelines, rather than requiring the applicant to secure permits and submit plans prior to gaining county approval.

“What is the likelihood of the Department of Ecology saying ‘no’ to permitting more water to Under Canvas when the resort is already operating?” The Woodwards note that Ecology has been stringent of late regarding water rights reallocations, and believe that existing businesses, especially those in conformance with the underlying zoning, should have priority.

“I am less concerned about the environmental impacts of the Under Canvas project. I am not anti-business, anti-progress, or anti-change,” says Steve Morrow, a retired engineer and resident of Oak Ridge Road. “I am a one issue voice here — Public Safety,” he says. Morrow has repeatedly scrutinized the applicant’s traffic studies for misrepresenting potential impacts, calling for independent review by the county and warning that his neighborhood will see a sharp uptick in both vehicle accidents and trip volumes that exhaust the capacity of the existing gravel road. He describes the county’s response to date as “defensive and deflective.” In response to the latest news, Morrow is unequivocal that “a mistake has been made.”

Projects of this scale, valued at over $1 million, are designated Class C by Section 2.72 of Klickitat County Code, with an associated appeal filing fee of $4,000. However, Planning has assigned a Class A designation for this appeal, with a corresponding filing fee of $200.

Written comments and appeals on this MDNS decision can be submitted to the County Planning Department until 5pm on Friday, January 22. Appeals, to be heard by the Board of County Commissioners, are considered incomplete without payment to the County Auditor of aforementioned filing fees. Comments can be submitted via email to planning@klickitatcounty.org, by mail to 228 W Main St., Goldendale, WA 98620, or hand-delivered to 228 W Main St., Goldendale, WA 98620. For more information, visit http://klickitatcounty.org/1261/Under-Canvas.