Opponents say the move is an attempt to confuse voters in May
In an effort to derail a voter initiative that challenges its power, Metro has referred an alternative to the Neighborhood Preservation Act to the May primary ballot.
The regional government's elected council approved the resolution last Thursday. It was sponsored by Councilor Rex Burkholder, co-chairman of a political action committee formed to fight the preservation act.
The only person to testify at the hearing was Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton, the other co-chairman of the No on Sprawl committee. He attacked the preservation act as legally flawed.
'This is a measure that's workable,' Burton said of the alternative.
The sponsors of the Neighborhood Preservation Act accused Metro of trying to defeat their measure by confusing voters. The Metro resolution includes a clause that says if both measures pass, the one that receives the most votes prevails.
'Metro will do whatever they can to deprive the voters of a real choice,' said Dave Hunnicutt, legal policy adviser for Oregonians in Action, a property rights group that supported the initiative drive that placed the preservation act on the ballot.
'They are trying to cloud the issue and get the voters to defeat the Neighborhood Preservation Act,' he continued.
The preservation act prohibits Metro from requiring cities and counties within its jurisdiction to increase residential housing densities. It also requires Metro to prepare and distribute a report on the potential adverse effects of any density increases approved by local governments.
Burkholder says Metro agrees with the basic thrust of preservation act. But, Burkholder says, the act has numerous legal problems that will require years of costly court suits to resolve.
Among other things, Burkholder said the act could unintentionally prevent Metro from ever expanding the urban growth boundary, which separates city-style development from rural land.
'People really care about protecting neighborhoods,' Burkholder told the other council members on Thursday. 'They deserve a thoughtful measure that is not clouded by legal questions.'
Burkholder's resolution prohibits density increases in single-family neighborhoods and requires public reports on proposed growth boundary expansions.
The resolution was rushed through the Metro Council. It was only added to the agenda the day before Thursday's meeting. At the beginning of the hearing, Presiding Officer Carl Hostika complained that he had three different versions of the resolution in front of him. The final one had been rewritten in response to questions raised by a Metro subcommittee Wednesday night.
Hunnicutt blasted the short notice.
'No one from Metro even contacted the sponsors of the preservation act before the hearing to tell us what was going on,' he said.