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The Brian and Jody Bea Story

 In 1997, Brian and Jody Bea wanted to build a house on a piece of land that has been in the Bea family for three or four generations. It is located in the Columbia Rive Gorge Scenic Area in Skamania County, Washington.

Because all new construction must meet the strict guidelines set forth under the federal Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area Act, the Beas had to go through an extensive regulatory review process. Skamania County has a list of 23 requirements governing construction, location and surrounding vegetation that is meant to insure that the house blends in with the scenery. Skamania County determined that the Beas' plans met all of their requirements and approved the house.

The Beas' housing application then went to the Columbia River Gorge Commission, a bi-state commission responsible for overseeing development in the gorge. The Gorge Commission had no objections to the Beas' proposed building plans and raised no other concerns about a possible negative environmental impact. The county then gave final approval to the Beas' application.

The Gorge Commission had another 20 days to disapprove the county's approval of the Beas' building application. Again, the Gorge Commission offered no objections and the Beas began building their home.

Then, more than a year later, the Columbia River Gorge Commission ordered the Beas to stop building their home - even though the house was already 60% complete. The Gorge Commission claimed that the Beas' home was not "visually subordinate" to the surrounding landscape. In other words, they thought it was too visable. The Commission's executive director, Jonathan Doherty, says the only way the house could be brought in compliance is if the 4,000-square foot structure is torn down and/or re-located elsewhere on the Beas' 20-acre lot.

The Beas are now in state court in an attempt to overturn the Commission's decision. They argue that they followed the various bureaucracies' rules in the building application process. Brian Bea estimates that their losses, for construction and other expenses, are already close to $300,000.
Source: Pacific Legal Foundation