When the folks at Metro first floated the idea of a second round of bonding to purchase and preserve natural areas and valuable habitat within the Portland metropolitan region, we thought it was a good idea. We still do, but we've also come to believe that the timing is all wrong.

Washington County voters face a host of money measures: the county public safety and library levies, local public safety levies in Forest Grove and Banks, a gas-tax referral in Cornelius and a huge bond measure. All of them are needed to continue funding for vital local government services.

Measure 26-80, would add to that bill a cost of 19 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, or $38 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home. Its goals are worthy: to purchase 27 environmentally sensitive areas around the region and provide $44 million in funds to local governments for community-based natural areas and neighborhood parks. Passage of this measure would continue a legacy of regional environmental stewardship that began with voter approval of Metro's first natural-resource acquisition bond in the mid-1990s.

But it also would continue problems with the first greenspace levy. First, too many properties were purchased outside the Urban Growth Boundary, where land is in no danger of being developed and property owners can't vote on this measure. Second, there again are no funds earmarked to develop the properties into anything the public can use. During the booming '90s, such public land-banking made sense. This go-around, it's one big expense that can be put off a while longer.

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