Supreme Court refuses to hear Columbia Gorge dispute

The Oregonian
PORTLAND, Ore.  (AP) 4/4/02 - - The U.S.  Supreme Court has refused to hear a case
the Columbia River Gorge Commission said would clarify how much authority
it has to enforce uniform land-use rules on both sides of the national
scenic area that forms part of the Oregon-Washington border.

The high court this week rejected the commission's appeal of a Washington
state court ruling that state land-use regulations apply in the federal
scenic area.

The 1995 case began when Scott Andersen, the owner of a small trailer park
in Skamania County, Wash., asked the county for permission to expand.

The county approved, but a neighbor, Chris Woodall, appealed to the gorge
commission, arguing that federal scenic area rules trumped Washington state
land-use regulations.

The gorge commission agreed with Woodall and overturned Skamania County,
saying that Andersen had ``discontinued'' the permitted land use by expanding.

Skamania County appealed the case through the Washington state court system
and won.  An appeals court found that the term ``discontinued'' in the
scenic-area rule was ambiguous, requiring the commission to apply
Washington state law to decide whether Andersen's trailer park permit had

The Washington Supreme Court declined in October to review the appeals
court ruling.

Martha Bennett, the commission's executive director, said the U.S.  Supreme
Court refusal to hear the case could lead to problems enforcing scenic area

``The commission sought review of the case because it was concerned about
the unfairness of the Court of Appeals decision on the gorge as a whole,''
said Bennett.

She said enforcement now depends on how Oregon and Washington state judges
interpret the Washington ruling in future land-use disputes within the
scenic area.

``I know there are several questions out there that might test this,''
Bennett said, including whether county property owners in Clark County,
Wash., are bound by scenic setback and buffer rules that clash with state
laws and might make some properties impossible to develop.

Skamania County Prosecutor Brad Anderson, who argued the case before the
Washington state appeals court, said the Supreme Court refusal to hear the
case simply confirmed a ``common-sense approach'' to governing the gorge.

``The precedent this case sets is that the gorge commission and the courts
must at least give some consideration to Oregon and Washington case law,''
he said.

Former U.S.  senators Mark O.  Hatfield of Oregon and Daniel J. Evans of
Washington, who helped draft the scenic-area legislation, backed the effort
to persuade the Supreme Court to hear the case, which the gorge commission
argued defied the intent of Congress to protect the beauty of the gorge.

The state of Oregon and the Delaware River Port Authority, which like the
gorge commission operates under a bistate compact, filed briefs in support
of the gorge commission's petition for Supreme Court review.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site