Tips for Country Living
Welcome to Klickitat County. As a rural community, we are proud of the country lifestyle and heritage our region offers. If you are new to our area or thinking of relocating here, especially from an urban environment, you may be interested to know more about customs and culture in our County. Rural living can require some "adjusting to" and is often very different from a recent urban dweller's expectations.
This booklet is intended to assist in the adjustment process and help newcomers understand the "rules of the west," we live by, as well as the County's position in terms of services and resources available.
A key element of country life is self-reliance. It is important to understand that County governments are not always able to provide the same level of service in undeveloped, rural and remote areas as they do inside urban or developed areas adjacent to a city. You will most surely encounter differences in terms of roads and utilities It is also important to understand our positions concerning the right to farm, wild animals, weather conditions and more.
To that end, this booklet provides information to help you make an educated and informed decision when choosing to purchase or develop land outside the boundaries of incorporated cities in Klickitat County. At the bottom of this page you will find helpful telephone numbers. Please call if we can be of further assistance.
Thank you: THE KLICKITAT COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Rural acreage, especially in remote areas, is desired by many for its remarkable scenery and serenity. However, there are many legal and geographical issues that can directly affect rural property in Klickitat County. Before you buy or develop land, it is important to research these items:
1.1 Permits and Approvals. Construction of dwellings and most buildings require Klickitat County issued building permits and inspections prior to use or occupancy. The permitting process not only helps assure you that your proposed project is in conformance with the applicable state construction codes, but also that it is consistent with other requirements regulating property divisions and uses such as setbacks, minimum frontage, potable water supply, sewage disposal systems and other activities that may require a permit. Also beware that not all existing dwellings have been permitted. Check with the Klickitat County Building Department for permit requirements before you purchase.
1.2 Not all lots are buildable. There are many segregated land parcels that are not legal lots in the sense that a building permit can be issued. You must check with the Klickitat County Planning Department to verify that a piece of land can be built upon.
1.3 Easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc., across your land. Check these issues carefully.
1.4 Many property owners do not own the mineral rights under their property. Owners of mineral rights have the ability to change the surface characteristics in order to extract their minerals. It is very important to know what minerals may be located under the land and who owns them. Much of the rural land in Klickitat County can be used for mining, subject to current land use zoning standards. Be aware that adjacent mining uses may expand and could cause what you consider negative impacts.
1.5 You may be provided with a plat of your property, but verify that the land has been surveyed and property corners placed by a licensed surveyor to assure that the plat is accurate.
1.6 Gorge Commission Permits. It is likely that regulations within the Columbia River Gorge area will be more restrictive than the County when it comes to land use. The Klickitat County Planning Department can identify which lands fall within the Gorge Management Area.
1.7 Fences that separate properties can be misaligned with the property lines. A survey of the land is the best way to confirm the location of your property lines. Klickitat County does not verify the location of property lines or become involved in property line disputes.
1.8 Many subdivisions and planned unit developments have covenants that limit the use of the property. It is important to obtain a copy of the covenants (or confirm that there are none) and make sure that you can live with those rules. Also, a lack of covenants can cause problems between neighbors. Klickitat County does not become involved in the enforcement of covenants.
1.9 Homeowners associations are often formed to take care of common elements such as roads, open spaces, etc. A dysfunctional homeowners association or poor covenants could cause problems for you and even involve you in expensive litigation.
1.10 Dues are almost always a requirement of a homeowners association. The by-laws of the homeowners association will tell you how the organization operates and how the dues are set.
1.11 Scenic, undeveloped, surrounding properties may not remain as they appear today. You can check with the Klickitat County Planning Department to find out what the comprehensive plan designation for a particular area is, how neighboring properties are currently zoned and what future developments may be in the planning stages.
1.12 Conditional Use Permits are required for uses not specified in zoning areas.
1.13 Water rights are an important issue in Klickitat County. The water flowing in creeks or streams bordering or crossing your property may belong to someone else. You cannot assume that because the water flows across your property you can use it. Water rights that are sold with the property may not give you the right to use the water from any stream or other source crossing your land without coordinating with the water district, a neighbor who also uses the water, or Department of Health or Washington Department of Ecology. Other users may have senior rights to the water that may limit your use or require you to pay for the oversizing or other improvements to the source.
1.14 It is also important to make sure that any water rights you purchase with the land will provide enough water to maintain agriculture such as fruit trees, pastures, gardens or livestock.
1.15 Stormwater flows through most low areas in the County at some time or another. If you build in these low areas you may be flooded. If you fill in the low areas you may be unintentionally relocating the floodwaters that could cause problems for others. This type of action could lead to private civil actions in court.
1.16 Flowing and standing water can be a hazard, especially to young children. Before you decide to locate your home near an active creek or stream, consider the possible danger to your family.
1.17 Many creeks, streams, rivers and wetlands are regulated by either the Klickitat County Shorelines Ordinance and/or the Klickitat County Critical Areas Ordinance. These regulations establish setbacks and buffer zones adjacent to these various bodies of water. Natural vegetation cannot be disturbed in these areas. If you are contemplating development on property near water, marsh, or other wet areas be sure to check with Klickitat County Planning Department before commencing any work.
1.18 A Nuisance Ordinance has been established in Klickitat County. This allows the County to require removal of junk cars, abandoned mobile homes, piles of debris and other nuisances that shall endanger the life, limb, health, morals, property, safety or welfare of the general public.
PROPERTY ACCESS (Roads)
The fact that you could drive to your property when it was purchased does not necessarily guarantee that you, your guests, or emergency service vehicles can achieve that same level of access at all times of the year. Please consider:
2.1 Emergency response times for sheriff, fire suppression, medical care, etc., cannot be guaranteed in rural areas. Under some extreme conditions, you may find that emergency response is extremely slow and expensive.
2.2 There can be problems with the legal aspects of access to a property, especially if you gain access across property belonging to others via privately owned easements or access roads. It is wise to obtain legal advice and understand the easements that may be necessary when these types of questions arise.
2.3 Klickitat County maintains 1,084 miles of County roads of which 30 miles are unimproved dirt, 633 are gravel and 421 miles are paved. If the road to your property is gravel, it is highly unlikely that Klickitat County will pave it without financing from the adjoining property owners through a Road Improvement District. Check carefully with the County Public Works Department when the seller of any property indicates any gravel road will be paved.
2.4 It is possible to experience problems with the maintenance and costs of maintaining your road. Although Klickitat County maintains over 1,000 miles of road, many rural properties are served by privately owned access roads, which are maintained by homeowners associations, private parties or other landowners. There are some County roads not maintained by the County year round - (no grading or snowplowing). There are some public roads and right of ways that are not maintained by anyone. Make sure you know what type of maintenance to expect and who will provide that maintenance. State law prohibits maintaining or plowing private roads by the County.
2.5 In extreme weather, even County maintained roads can become impassable. You may need at least a four wheel drive vehicle with chains for all four wheels to attempt travel during these episodes, which could last for several days. School buses and other types of vehicles may not be able to travel during these times. There are several primitive County roads, with no warning signs, that may be impassable when wet or closed in the winter.
2.6 Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads. Some public and private roads are not built to proper standards and may not hold up during the spring thaw. Load restrictions will be placed on County roads to prevent truck traffic from damaging them, so plan to haul rock before your access road becomes impassable.
2.7 Many large construction vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads. If you plan to build, it is prudent to check out construction access, especially for delivery of a manufactured/modular home. A permit to move an overwidth/overweight vehicle is needed from the County Public Works Department.
2.8 Gravel roads generate dust. Klickitat County does not treat roads to suppress dust. If you reside near an unpaved road you may want to investigate having the road treated for dust suppression by one of the contractors authorized by the County to do that work.
2.9 Gravel roads are not always smooth. Such roads often develop a "washboard" pattern when they are dry and become muddy with potholes during the spring thaw. You will experience an increase in vehicle maintenance costs when you regularly travel on gravel County roads. Also, be aware that speeds in excess of 35 mph increase the rate of gravel road deterioration. Per State law, the speed limit for all unposted County roads is 50 mph, but road and weather conditions should dictate your driving speed.
2.10 School buses travel only on maintained County roads designated as school bus routes by the school district. You may need to drive your children to the nearest bus stop so they can get to school. Buses travel on so many miles of road it is impossible to assign a higher priority to one school bus route over another. Be sure to check with your local school district. The school bus may be delayed or not be able to make it to every bus stop during a snow event.
2.11 Snow can become a problem for property access as several feet can accumulate during the winter. Under most conditions, maintained County roads will be plowed within two days. Packed snow and/or ice generally remains on plowed roads until the weather moderates, creating "slush", which also provides very difficult driving conditions. Snowplows will place berms across driveways and in front of mailboxes. You will be responsible for keeping your driveway and mailboxes clear.
2.12 Natural disasters, especially floods, can destroy roads. Look out for water over the roadway. Klickitat County will repair and maintain County roads. Private roads, including private subdivision roads, are the responsibility of the landowners using the roads. Repairs and/or reconstruction of private roads after floods represent a significant expense to affected residents. A dry creek bed can become a raging torrent and wash out roads, bridges, and culverts. Floods can change the landscape; a new creek or ditch may be formed on your property during a major flood event.
2.13 A private approach to a County road must be permitted by the Public Works Department. Adequate drainage and site distance is required prior to a permit being issued.
2.14 Mail delivery may not be available to all areas of the County. Ask the postmaster to describe the system for your area.
2.15 Newspaper delivery is not always available to rural areas. Check with the newspaper of your choice before assuming you can get delivery.
2.16 Standard parcel and overnight package delivery can be a problem for those who live in the country. Confirm with the service providers as to your status.
2.17 Road Vegetation Management. A residual herbicide treatment program is performed to prevent vegetation from encroaching into the paved portion of County roads. This is a maintenance type of program performed following manufacturers label recommended rates for residual season long total vegetation control.
2.18 Noxious Weed Control. All roads in the County are subject to treatment for noxious weeds. State Law mandates that the landowner is responsible for the control of noxious weeds so it is the duty of the County to comply.
2.19 The mowing of roadways is used to control vegetation in populated areas, organic farming communities and areas with a high water table.
2.20 Brush Control. The County Public Works Department crews do brush removal either manually or mechanically. To delay regrowth, a maintenance program using brush control herbicides is performed, usually in the late summer or early fall.
It is possible that water, sewer, electrical, telephone and other services may be unavailable in certain areas or may not operate at urban standards. Repairs can often take much longer in rural locations than in towns and cities. Please review your options from the non-exhaustive list below:
3.1 Sewer service is generally not available to rural areas in Klickitat County. You will need to use an approved on-site septic system or other treatment process. The type of soil you have available for a leach-field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system. Some systems can be very expensive. For existing systems, it is advisable to have the system checked by a reliable sanitation firm and ask for assistance from the Environmental Health Division of the Klickitat County Health District (KCHD).
3.2 Rural residents generally do not have access to a supply of treated domestic water and will have to locate an alternative supply. The most common sources of water in rural areas are private wells. The cost for drilling and pumping can be considerable. The quality and quantity of well water can also vary considerably from location to location and from season to season. It is strongly advised that you research this issue very carefully for your particular property. Contacts should be made with Klickitat County Public Health Department. The Department of Ecology also has a role in the permitting and regulation of private wells. You may want to consider contacting them for additional input.
3.3 Not all wells can be used for watering landscaping and/or livestock. If you have water needs beyond household use, make certain that you have the proper approvals before you invest. Also note that it may be difficult to find enough water to provide for your needs even if you can secure the proper permit. Contacts should be made with the Washington State Department of Ecology, (WDOE) to inquire about water rights.
3.4 Public Utility District #1 of Klickitat County provides electrical power to all of Klickitat County and can be reached at 509-773-5891 or 1-800-548-8357. Copies of the PUD Line Extension Policy are available at the Goldendale and White Salmon offices.
3.5 Due to our limited infrastructure, electric service and telephone service may not be readily available in every area of Klickitat County. It is important to determine the proximity of the nearest electric power and/or telephone service, as it can be very expensive to extend utility service power lines in remote areas. It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend utility service (electrical, telephone, etc.) to your property in the most cost efficient manner. Easements may not be available to access your property with power. You will need to check your title report for existing easements and discuss proposed easements with neighboring landowners that may be affected.
3.6 Overhead power lines cost approximately $20,000 per mile for single-phase lines. Some areas, including the Gorge Scenic Area and selected subdivisions, require new line to be buried underground. If an underground line is required to a permanent residence, the costs will be at least double that of an overhead line. The cost of electric service starts with an amperage charge and line extension cost to hook up to a system. Then there's a monthly charge plus a kWh usage charge for energy consumed. It is important to know both costs before making a decision to purchase a specific piece of property.
3.7 Check to see if there is an existing or proposed Local Utility District (LUD) with an assessment tied to your parcel of land. Information can be obtained at the PUD or County Treasurer's Office.
3.8 Power outages can occur in outlying areas with more frequency than in more developed areas, particularly if power lines are difficult to access, as in heavy timber areas. A loss of electric power can interrupt your supply of water from a well. Interruptions in power may cause you to lose the food in your freezer or refrigerator and may cause problems with computers as well. If you live in the country it is important to be able to survive a week or longer in severe cold with no utilities. Approved standby power plants are common in this area. Generator noise may be a problem.
3.9 Telecommunication service to the very rural parts (e.g. mountainous) of the County can be a challenge to provide. Also, even though your property may have existing telephone service, you need to realize that obtaining high-speed data service such as DSL may not be possible because of a distance limitation or a lack of facilities. In addition, wireless (e.g. cellular) phone may not work in all areas.
3.10 Trash removal and recycling service is available County wide, with a couple of restrictions. Garbage and recycling vehicles travel only on roads maintained by the County for year round access. As a result, your trash collection or curbside recycling pickup location could be a long distance from your home. If you choose to leave your trash or recycling at the junction of your private road and the County road, you are responsible for making sure you do not create a nuisance for your neighbors. This practice has been disallowed in some areas. Contact the service provider for details on your specific location.
3.11 Klickitat County has one of the lowest cost garbage disposal rates in Washington State due to the presence of the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in the county and their policy of "no tipping fee for in-county waste, up to 1,000 tons per year". However, trash removal transportation costs can be more expensive in rural areas than in urban areas. We have "no cost" services for recycling used oil, scrap metal, appliances, paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum cans, glass beverage containers, automotive batteries and for the proper disposal of household hazardous waste at the transfer stations located in BZ Corners, Dallesport, Goldendale and at the Roosevelt Landfill. Contact Klickitat County Solid Waste for details 509-773-4448.
Remote locations can provide stunning scenic beauty. However, residents of rural areas usually experience more problems when the elements and earth turn unfriendly. Here are some thoughts for you to consider:
4.1 The physical characteristics of your property can be positive and negative. Trees are a wonderful environmental amenity, but can also involve your home in a forest fire. Homes built in forested area face the very real potential of being damaged or destroyed by wildland fires. As rural residential development progresses, livestock grazing is displaced. This results in accumulated "ladder fuels" to feed a wildland fire. Here are a few simple things a property owner can do to reduce the danger:
A. BE PREPARED. Respect the danger of fire in wildland areas by learning more about wildland fires.
B. Clear land around the house of excess trees and ground vegetation; a minimum 30 foot clear or "defensible space" around structures, consisting of maintained and watered lawn pruned shrubs and trees can help mitigate the spread of wildland fires to building.
C. Wooden decks may harbor sparks or smoldering fires which, undetected, and may later access your home.
D. Replace combustible roofs and other building materials with non-combustibles; store other combustible materials such as firewood away from your house.
E. Maintain adequate access roads and driveways and remove overgrowth and flammable vegetation immediately adjacent to the traveled roadway.
F. Have your address posted and visible at the intersection of your driveway.
G. Provide a reliable water supply.
H. Develop a fire safety plan for your home and your family.
I. If you start a wildland fire, you may be responsible for paying for the cost of extinguishing that fire. For further information on fire safety, you can contact the Klickitat County Planning Department, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and your local rural Fire District.
4.2 Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Large rocks can also roll down steep slopes and present a great danger to people and property.
4.3 Expansive soils can buckle concrete foundations and twist steel I-beams. You can determine the soil conditions on your property if you have a soil test performed or consult a soil classification map, when available.
4.4 North facing slopes or canyons rarely see direct sunlight in the winter. There is a possibility that snow will accumulate and not melt throughout the winter.
4.5 The topography of the land will tell you where water will go in the case of heavy precipitation. Pay close attention to these areas in order to determine how water will flow on your land and develop your land accordingly.
4.6 Snow removal from roofs, especially for manufactured homes, may be necessary. If you plan to site a manufactured home be sure the roof is rated for the expected snow load at your homesite.
4.7 Winter and spring run-off or a heavy rainfall can cause a very small creek to become a major river. It is wise to take this possibility into consideration when building. You need to ask if your property is in a flood zone. If it is, construct your home and outbuildings above the flooded areas. Construction in frequently flooded areas is regulated by the County Planning Department. The County does not provide sand, sandbags, equipment, or people to protect private property from flooding.
4.8 Nature can provide you with some wonderful neighbors. Most wild animals, such as deer and eagles, are positive additions to the environment. However, even "harmless" animals like deer can cross the road unexpectedly and cause traffic accidents. Rural development often encroaches on the traditional habitat of coyotes, bobcats, cougar, bear, rattlesnakes, raccoons, skunks, porcupines, mice, mosquitoes, ticks, and other creatures that can be dangerous or become a nuisance. You need to know how to deal with them safely, legally and effectively. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Let the animals be themselves, watch them, but avoid chasing them or allowing your pets to do so. Also know that if you do not handle your pet refuse and trash properly, it could cause problems for you and the wildlife. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Klickitat County Health District are two good resources for information. They have many free publications to help educate you about rural living.
4.9 Many areas in the County are open for hunting. Hunting, while providing recreational opportunities, is a tool for managing wildlife populations. Landowners do not have to post their property. Hunters are trespassing if they enter posted or unposted property without the landowner's permission. Be cautious that you may encounter individuals who trespass, litter and fire guns, especially during hunting seasons.
4.10 Household pets that are allowed to roam may endanger or harm wildlife and may be subject to termination by wildlife officers, other law enforcement personnel or other landowners.
LIVING WITH AGRICULTURE
Klickitat County is largely an agricultural area. Much of the rural land is actively used for growing crops, feeding livestock, and providing lumber and mineral resources. The tradition of agricultural land used has preserved our County's open space for more than a century. Owning rural land requires a basic understanding of agricultural processes. There are a few things you need to know:
5.1 The agricultural business is a very important aspect of Klickitat County and its economy. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, do not expect County government to intervene in the normal day-to-day operations of your agribusiness neighbors. In fact, Washington State protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits. Klickitat County has also enacted a "Right to Farm" ordinance. Both enable the farms and ranches to continue producing food and fiber.
5.2 Farmers often work around the clock, especially during planting and harvest time. Dairy operators sometimes milk without stopping and hay is often swathed or baled at night. It is possible that adjoining agricultural uses may unintentionally disturb your peace and quiet.
5.3 Land preparation and other operations often cause dust, especially during windy and dry weather.
5.4 Fields and ditches are occasionally burned by farmers to keep them clean of debris, weeds and other obstructions; logging operations burn slash piles; grain growers burn stubble to help generate next years crops. This burning creates smoke that may blow in your direction as winds change.
5.5 Chemicals (mainly fertilizers and herbicides) are used in growing crops. If you are sensitive to these substances, they may cause allergic reactions. Many of these chemicals are applied by low-flying airplanes that often fly early in the morning.
5.6 Before buying land you should find out if it has noxious weeds. Landowners are responsible for the expense of controlling noxious weeds to prevent their spread. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock.
5.7 Much of Klickitat County receives less than 17 inches of precipitation per year and without irrigation, grass generally only stays green in the spring. If you own farm animals it is important to know there is a limit to the amount of grazing the land can handle. The Klickitat County Cooperative Extension Office can help you with these issues.
5.8 Domestic farm animals can be dangerous to strangers. Dogs, cattle, horses, pigs, goats, ram sheep, etc. can attack human beings and other animals without warning. Children need to know that it is not safe to enter areas where unfamiliar animals are kept.
5.9 Those who live in rural settings are expected to control family dogs or other pets that trespass onto the property of others and cause damage to livestock or farm operations. Landowners can shoot stray dogs that are running or harassing their livestock.
5.10 It is generally understood in agricultural areas that farm animals produce manure, which can cause objectionable odors.
5.11 Klickitat County has both open and closed range law areas. You should know if it is your responsibility or the responsibility of the rancher or farmer to keep their livestock off your property.
5.12 When driving, be aware that large, slow-moving farm machinery and livestock are often moved on County roads. If you come upon machinery, horseback riders or livestock in the roadway, please slow down; be courteous and patient as you pass.
JOINING THE COMMUNITY
Although wide open spaces appear to separate rural dwellers, fewer residents mean you are likely to see familiar faces on a regular basis. Small towns provide gathering places that often foster a close-knit sense of community and common understanding. We invite you to consider the following:
6.1 In times of need or emergency, rural residents often find their neighbors to be their greatest resource. An open dialogue is often the best way to mitigate problems and forge new alliances.
6.2 We also encourage you to participate in our community activities to learn more about the pride we share in our local heritage and rural culture. Annual events are held in nearly every community through Klickitat County. These include the County fair, rodeos, community days, farmers markets, pow-wows and festivals. A Countywide calendar of events is available through the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce 509-773-3400 or the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce in White Salmon 509-493-3630.
A partial list of annual events include:
This information is by no means exhaustive. You may encounter issues we have overlooked and we encourage you to be vigilant in your duties to explore and examine those things that could cause your move to Klickitat County to be less satisfactory than you expected.
Even though rural property owners pay property taxes to the County, the amount of tax collected from rural land owners does not cover the full cost of services provided in rural areas. To some extent rural services are subsidized by taxes collected from local industry. We at the county hope rural residents appreciate the level of services the County is able to provide. We hope rural residents appreciate country living, with all of its charms, may include some inconveniences and that it may also require a bit of self reliance, ingenuity and patience on some occations.
We at Klickitat County will be happy to answer any questions you may have. We have offered these comments in the sincere hope it can help you enjoy your decision to reside in the rural areas of Klickitat County.
Date of Source Material: 10/27/2003
Source: Klickitat County Commissioners
Commissioners Home Meeting Agenda and Minutes Tips for Country Living Public Notices: BOCC Press Releases
Rex F. Johnston District 1
David Sauter District 2
Jim Sizemore District 3
205 S Columbus,MS-CH-4
Goldendale, WA 98620
Fax: 509 773-6779
Phone: 509 773-4612
8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Commission Meeting Days: