Despite the assertions of Lake Oswego City Council and staff, the property owners' concerns about the 'sensitive lands' land use restriction program have not been solved. In fact, the planning staff has announced their intent to begin the process of mapping approximately 250 more private residential properties later this year, claiming there is a Metro 'directive' to do so and that this will bring fairness to the application of this land use restriction program.
These assertions are false and a gross misrepresentation to the community of the 'sensitive lands' issue. Yes, there were some changes made to the sensitive lands ordinance last year, but they are 'de-minimus' changes - meaning so minimal as to be insignificant. Additionally, the city is now in compliance with Metro and there is absolutely no directive by Metro or the state to be adding properties to the 'sensitive lands' map - and we have that in writing from Metro. Adding more private residential properties to the sensitive lands map and creating a new inventory of properties is a choice that the city is making that is not required, lacks scientific validity, is arbitrary and reduces the use, value and marketability of a property. The claim that adding these 250 properties in some way provides fairness and equity is absurd. The city would have to add thousands and thousands of more acres, primarily private property, to this land use restriction program to have equal application of the ordinance. It would take an army of planners and huge budget to do so, and to what end when we have almost 20 other ordinances and programs related to natural resource protection that apply to private properties already?
Not only that, the real, most critical 'sensitive lands' in our community are not in the developed backyards of residential neighborhoods. The real 'sensitive lands' are along the riverfront, in our public natural area parks and in the Luscher Farm area. But those areas are being considered for development for the streetcar, Foothills, a new driving range, an indoor tennis center, a party venue and more. And, the city's 460 acres of natural area parks are, according to a consultant, primarily in 'poor' condition; and council is reluctant to provide any meaningful level of funding to uphold their responsibility to maintain and restore these lands that were bought with our tax money. So while private residential property owners are micro-managed about what plants they can plant in backyards, whether and what type of lighting there can be, limited to using just 200 square feet of their backyards and on and on, the city is planning to destroy well-known habitat areas with development.
To develop, they need to provide mitigation. A new inventory of private backyards that are saddled with an in-perpetuity land use restriction is a mitigation option. And, while it may appease the state and Metro as a 'trade,' our community can do better.
Do you value the riverfront, our public natural area parks, Luscher farm and its surrounding undeveloped land that is filled with wildlife, trees, wetlands and streams? If so, wake up and realize what 'sensitive lands' is really about. Micro-managing private residential backyards with permanent land use restrictions does not make up for the destruction of our true habitat areas.
Save our real 'sensitive lands!' Please visit our website at www.lostewards.org.
David Streiff, president, Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands, has a degree in wildlife biology and is an avid outdoorsman and wildlife photographer.