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Resorts not worth hassle for county

Commission tables mapping plans
Jefferson County will not have a destination resort any time soon.
   At the Jefferson County Commission's May 25 hearing, a continuation of an April 27 hearing, the commission tabled plans to map an area in the northeastern part of the county for destination resorts.
   "Let the record show, no commissioners are interested in continuing this hearing," said Chairman Mike Ahern, calling the county's experience with the state "exasperating."
   In 2009, after the county had spent more than two years in legal battles, the Oregon Legislature created an Area of Critical State Concern on 447 square miles in the Metolius River Basin, which effectively eliminated the only area the county had mapped for destination resorts back in December 2006.
   With that area off limits, county officials considered other potential areas to map for destination resorts, which can't be on a site with 50 or more contiguous acres of prime farmland or within three miles of high-value crop land, in high-value forestland, or in sensitive big game habitat.
   When all the overlays were applied to the county, the only area remaining for consideration was the northeast corner of the county, but a recent decision by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals likely changed that.
   Attorney Paul Dewey, of Bend, who successfully represented Central Oregon Landwatch in an appeal of Klamath County's attempt at amending its comprehensive plan and map to identify 90,000 acres as eligible for a destination resort, explained that the group felt "it wasn't very carefully done."
   The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals agreed with Landwatch's contention that the mapping "would significantly affect the county's entire transportation system," and remanded it back to Klamath County, to evaluate compliance with the county's transportation planning rule.
   In the city of Madras, several projects have already been stopped because of the difficulty of complying with a TPR before a project has even been identified.
   The Oregon Legislature is considering several bills that would make it easier for small communities to comply with the expensive and complicated TPR process. Without such a bill, the Klamath Falls decision makes it nearly impossible for a small community to proceed with large developments, such as a destination resort.
   Tom McDonald, of Madras, who in 2007 received a waiver to create a destination resort community on 6,240 acres he owns in the Ashwood area, was bothered by what he termed "bureaucracy."
   "You have to have progress, and progress is not keeping something in limbo for years and years," he said. "You have to have some definite guidelines. I have one deal that cost me $4 million, so I know what I'm talking about."
   "I'm tired of destination resorts," said Ahern. "I just want to table it and put it on a dusty shelf. Even if we do everything perfect, there's nothing to stop the state from stepping in in the end."