In the Oct. 6 Lake Oswego Review, Planning Commissioner Todd Prager wrote a citizen's view that referred to the city's mapping of our community to regulate 'trees, streams and other natural resources on private property' (a description of the 'sensitive lands' program). The question he posed was 'Is it right for some areas of our community to be free from city regulations while others abide by a strict set of rules?'
This is a very misleading question because no one in our community is 'free from city regulations.' In fact, there are almost 20 natural resource ordinances and programs (such as tree code, erosion control and floodplain standards, stream and wetlands protections, storm water management, etc) that apply via the citywide Community Development Code and are more than adequate to protect natural resources. However, about 10 percent of private residential property owners have considerably more regulation than others via the 'sensitive lands' land use restriction program.
What's at issue is that private existing backyards, already zoned and developed for homes and families, are being additionally 'zoned,' after the fact, with these onerous, permanent land use restrictions resulting in the city micro-managing backyards and treating them like community natural areas. While the 'sensitive lands' program is useful for public natural areas and parks, property that has been approved for private residential use is not appropriate for this onerous land use restriction program.
LO Stewards' research shows that the private property selections for 'sensitive lands' are arbitrary and inequitable, provide no valid environmental benefit to the community or the watershed, and unfairly reduces the use and value of the property. The 'sensitive lands' program is a 'trade' program that applies permanent land use restrictions to private backyards as mitigation for development in areas of high economic interest. It is pseudo-environmentalism that is divisive, discriminatory and violates the private property rights of many of our citizens. In fact, in July 2010, when the city was taking a 'second look' at the 'sensitive lands' program, the following statement was removed from the adopted resolution: 'Whereas, the city of Lake Oswego is also committed to the principles of fairness to individuals and respect for private property …'. So, fairness and respect for citizens' properties is not valued?
LO Stewards' position is clear, consistent and well documented. We support a balanced, fair, comprehensive approach to the protection of our natural resources, while respecting the rights of all private property owners. 'Sensitive lands' designations should be removed from the 203 acres of private backyards that have been unfairly selected, and these property owners should have the same rights as the other 90 percent of private residential property owners. The plans to add more residential properties to 'sensitive lands' on an on-going basis should be halted because this only further violates the rights of more of our citizens. 'Sensitive lands' land use restrictions are not appropriate for any private residential properties in our community no matter what the area or neighborhood: Not 'upland' areas and not lake front.
Using private residential property for mitigation for other development, micro-managing backyards, and taking from others should not be a Lake Oswego 'community value.'
For more information on the city's natural resource protection ordinances and programs and 'sensitive lands', please see our website at www.lostewards.org/.
Lauren Hughes, Lake Oswego, is a board member of LO Stewards.