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Is Metro the 'boss' of Lake Oswego?

In last week’s Review, there was an article about Metro’s appeal of a Lake Oswego City Council decision to revise the city’s “sensitive lands” program and remove about 45 private properties from the arbitrary and onerous “sensitive lands” program. Metro’s appeal to the state land use board (LUBA) is an aggressive, orchestrated political move against Lake Oswego citizens.

“Big Brother” Metro’s appeal is about drawing a line in the sand in advance of the proposal Councilor (Mary) Olson is preparing with city staff to provide broader reform to the “sensitive lands” program. The reform was furthered at the July 31 council meeting by a proposal from Oregonians in Action. The proposal recommended treating all private residential property with the same rules and reserving the “sensitive lands” program for public land. The proposal pointed out that public parks and natural areas are more environmentally sensitive than developed backyards and that there are about 200 acres of public land that the city could designate “sensitive lands” to provide increased environmental protections and be in closer alignment to Metro’s Title 13 map. But the city doesn’t like restrictions on public land. The city attorney has indicated that the city does not pay full market value for land with restrictions such as “sensitive lands” and Councilor (Donna) Jordan has expressed concern about the city owning property with land use restrictions because it limits the use of the property. No kidding.

Metro staff, all the way up to Metro Council President Tom Hughes, has told LO Stewards many times the city has the flexibility to determine what is environmentally significant and establish its own methods of complying with Metro Titles 3 and 13. Yet, suddenly Metro is playing bully politics over a few acres of citizens’ backyards, claiming the “sensitive lands” program can’t be changed and these backyards are critical habitat. This in an attempt to thwart the reform needed to bring common sense, fairness and some actual environmental benefit to Lake Oswego’s compliance program and it proves “sensitive lands” is about politics, not the environment.

In a letter to the city dated June 22, 2012, Metro staff writes: “Removing habitat protections based on whether the land is privately or publicly owned is in conflict with the region-wide expressed desire to protect natural resources through a consistent methodology that is applied to all lands equally.”

But the city’s “sensitive lands” program isn’t consistent and doesn’t apply regulations in an equal manner. That’s the heart of citizens’ concerns. It’s arbitrary, subjective and applies extra regulations to treed areas and small drainage areas so that there can be less regulation of water elsewhere — a trade.

The well-publicized LUBA appeal, timed in advance of new proposals, smells to us like backroom dealings from those who support the “trade” concept and believe that “Metro is the boss.”

So, is Metro the “boss” of Lake Oswego? Do Lake Oswego citizens have any real say in the programs, ordinances and plans that impact our community, private property, personal finances, and daily lives? If Metro can file an appeal that abuses the rights and property of citizens, destroying the value of their homes, and limiting the use and enjoyment of their backyards under the false claims of environmental protection, what else can Metro and its supporters ram rod through in Lake Oswego?

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