by Lindy Williams
The Hines Common Council met for the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, July 11, at 6:30 p.m.
To begin the meeting, Daniel Grigg was sworn in to his position on the council.
The council was addressed by Chris Boyce of High Desert Transformations. Boyce detailed the issues that his company has been having with the county planning commission. Currently, High Desert Transformations — a marijuana grow operation — is located in a light industrial zoned area. The comprehensive plan does not allow for an exclusive farm use (UFA) conditional use permit in light industrial zones. Boyce urged the council to view High Desert Transformations as an agricultural venture that is subject to the same hardships as any farm or ranch operation.
“The planning commission has authority in your industrial zone. They demanded structural engineer reports on greenhouses when they’re hoops and plastic. With greenhouses that are as old as ours, we’re not issued structural engineer reports. No one’s are,” Boyce said. “So basically, what the county planning commission was doing was forcing us to spend another $40-50,000 on new ones.”
Boyce stated that the city of Hines saved them from going out of business by issuing temporary building permits for the greenhouses, but he asked that a more permanent solution be considered. He stated that no other county in the state imposes the same restrictions as Harney County.
“And if it’s exclusive farm use, those problems go away because they’re under different codes. In fact, Howard Palmer said to me, ‘I wish you guys would just make it exclusive farm use, so we could quit having to fight this battle,’ because he’s kind of stuck enforcing the rules for commercial buildings when it’s not a commercial building,” City Administrator Judy Erwin said.
After some discussion, the council voted 4-1 in favor of amending the comprehensive plan to include UFA zoning in the types of available conditional use permits for light industrial zones. The conditional use permits will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
The council held a lengthy discussion concerning zoning ordinances within Hines.
The council voted 4-1 in favor of offering residents who live in commercially zoned buildings a conditional use permit based on verifiable evidence that they’d lived in the building, solely as a resident, for five years or longer.
City Administrator Erwin reported that she attended a flood and self-insurance meeting June 28.
“We went over some new data Doug Ferguson had put together showing that flow rates off of the hills are not what FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] said they were. So that will give us good ammunition to fight them on their mapping,” Erwin said. “We also got some information that the flood insurance is too high on a lot of homes in the county. They are requiring rates that are not legal.”
Erwin stated that they were working on changing that and looking into the possibility of creating an insurance program for the county.
Mayor Nikki Morgan asked whether the citizens who were overpaying could be repaid; Erwin replied that they were working on getting money back, but she was unsure whether it would happen.
In other business, the council:
• voted to approve a Safe Drinking Water IFA Loan to implement the Master Water Plan. The 30-year loan includes a $750,000 grant, and a $6,449,000 loan with a one percent interest rate. The annual IFA Loan payments will be more expensive, but they will be payed off in fewer years with less interest;
• heard from Fire Chief Bob Spence who stated that the department assisted with five 911 calls in July. The department also put out three small grass fires that were started by the firework finale;
• heard a report from Police Chief Ryan DeLange who stated that the department was dealing with a few remaining Rainbow Family members, but that the problems had mostly subsided. He also stated that Officer Roxane Ellis was working on methamphetamine and child neglect cases. DeLange informed the council that he would be opening up the reserve program soon.
He also warned the citizens of Hines to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, as he’d already killed four within the city limits;
• heard a report from Acting Maintenance Supervisor Jerry Lewellen. He stated that the Jones Well was still down, but the other wells had been handling the demand. Lewellen also reported that the department had been weed-eating fire hydrants and fixing potholes;
• received a thank you card from the Kiwanis concerning the council’s donation to the fireworks show;
• heard from Councilor Ron Williams. Williams urged the council to consider options for the upcoming crack seal project. He also asked whether the county completed all scheduled street sweeping. City Administrator Erwin stated she would check the schedules;
• approved Ordinance 315, prohibiting the display, sale, distribution, possession, and use of unlawful intoxicating compounds and psychoactive substances. This ordinance was passed to prevent the selling of the drug Kratom within the city of Hines. The ordinance passed 4-1;
• approved a business license for Southside Storage;
• approved a business license for High Desert Partnership.
The Hines Common Council meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Hines City Hall. The next meeting will take place Aug. 8, at 6:30 p.m.