Property values may go down during a bad economy, but generally recover when times are good. However, if you are a Lake Oswego property owner impacted by, or proposed for 'sensitive lands' land use restrictions, your property may be devalued permanently.

During the July 12 city council meeting, use of the city-owned nine-acre Woodmont Park (a sensitive lands impacted property) as an alternative sports field was discussed and Councilor (Donna) Jordan raised questions regarding the purchase arrangements for this deed-restricted property. Councilor Jordan stated: 'It seems ridiculous to hold on to nine acres of very good property that is so deed restricted that we can't do anything with it …'

(City) Attorney (David) Powell explained: 'Where there's a real significant limitation, the city typically isn't going to pay a fair market value …'

For the past two years, Realtors, appraisers and attorneys have all told us that permanent land use restrictions like those of the 'sensitive lands' program devalue property. The city has consistently denied this. But now we know the city recognizes this fact and negotiates for a lower price.

It's also ironic that a councilor can willingly accept the restrictions that the 'sensitive lands' program arbitrarily places on more than 1,000 of our citizens' existing private backyards, while finding it 'ridiculous' that the city holds on to property with these same restrictions.

Make no mistake. The 'sensitive lands' program is a regulatory land use restriction program that, according to staff, 'trades' more upland tree/drainage regulation for less water regulation. It unfairly restricts some citizens' existing private backyards so the city can develop freely elsewhere. These onerous restrictions devalue private property and do so with no documented environmental benefit.

And now, even more restrictions may be on the way. On July 19, city council met to discuss proposed changes to the Community Development Code which, if passed, provide more restrictions that will result in even tighter regulations on private backyards despite the purported 'easing' of regulations promised to citizens with council's Dec. 13, 2010 vote (6 to 1) in favor of the sensitive lands program. From landscaping permits to an approved plant list, the city continues to increase its regulatory oversight of private properties, limiting citizen's use of their own backyards and devaluing what is for many in this community their greatest asset, their private property.

The 'sensitive lands' land use restriction program continues to grow in its divisive and discriminatory policies. It is arbitrary in its selection of properties, is devoid of any proof that it serves the environmental purpose the city claims it provides, has helped create a schism in the community and unfairly devalues private property, economically damaging the property owner as well as adjacent properties. All LO property owners should be concerned.

In response to Councilor Jordan's concern about holding on to property '… that is so deed restricted that we can't do anything with it …', who's willing to purchase it and for how much. (That's) the very same question more than 1,000 'sensitive lands' property owners in our community may ask considering the marketability and value of their land use restricted properties. The 'sensitive lands' program is a divisive, discriminatory and devaluing policy that needs to be changed.

Visit and view video of the exchange between Councilor Jordan and Attorney Powell and see how you can support the LO Stewards' efforts.

Bob Thompson, Lake Oswego, is a member of LO Stewards PAC.

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