In last week's Review, Rob LeChevallier provided input on questions related to Foothills development. He wrote that citizens should 'ask for and receive accurate information on Foothills …'; therefore, we'd like to respond to his comments related to 'sensitive lands'.
Mr. LeChevallier wrote 'What about sensitive lands? The area is already fully developed for industrial uses, apartments or retail and there are no sensitive lands in the district that are proposed to be redeveloped.'
The Foothills area is within the 100-year floodplain, flooded extensively in 1996 and includes riparian habitat. The area was indicated for protection under Metro's Title 3 water quality and flood protection regulation, meets the definition criteria for regulation, and was indicated on Metro's adopted Title 3 map to receive regulation. However, instead of regulating this area (and other significant water areas) under Title 3, the city developed the 'sensitive lands' program as Lake Oswego's water quality compliance approach (flooding issues are handled under different regulations). The premise of the 'sensitive lands' program is that by applying permanent land use restrictions to upland properties in the same watershed, areas such as Foothills can have less regulation. Metro terms this compliance approach as 'off-site mitigation' and it is allowed under Title 3 regulations. City staff term it a 'trade.' However, Foothills meets several criteria for 'sensitive lands' regulations - it's just been given a pass because of the high economic interest in redeveloping the area.
In fact, a 2005 OTAK report commissioned by the city provides an analysis of the opportunities and constraints of developing Foothills. This report indicates that there are environmental issues to consider '… loss of habitat, changes in runoff and recharge characteristics, effects of paleontological, prehistoric and historic resources, changes to the local aesthetics and views, and other physical and natural environmental factors.'
Mr. LeChevallier also writes, 'Foothills Park … provides an excellent amenity for future residents and acts as a natural buffer between new development and the river.' But Foothills Park and the associated wetland are not designated 'sensitive lands.' Public areas such as Foothills Park and the nearby wetlands are the types of areas that should have 'sensitive lands' designations, not backyards. But, the city has excluded many public properties and included already developed private residential property (but not already developed industrial property in Foothills).
The 'sensitive lands' program is about working the system to ensure that areas of economic interest to developers and the city can be more easily developed. This is being done at the expense of many private residential property owners, resulting in loss of equal rights and loss of home value due to the 'sensitive lands' permanent land use restrictions. Backyards are being treated like community nature preserves and homeowners no longer even have the simple freedom of landscaping their backyards without city oversight while more environmentally significant areas closest to the largest bodies of water are densely developed. This 'trade' has to end and all private residential property owners should have their rights restored.
So, yes, Mr. LeChevallier there are no 'sensitive lands' designated in Foothills, but that's just politics.
Please visit www.lostewards.org for more information.
David Streiff, president, Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands, has a degree in wildlife biology and is an avid outdoorsman and wildlife photographer.