Island future hangs in balance
By TODD MURPHY
Pamplin Media Group
As the late morning rain showers battle with the sunbreaks, Shari Raider stands in front of rows of kale and cabbage and brussels sprouts that stretch for - well, they stretch for 14 years.
It was 1993 when Raider, from the East Coast, and looking for a place to begin a small organic farm, found her nirvana. A rich agricultural community - 12 miles from downtown Portland. Sauvie Island.
She has been here since. She and her husband have built a place on the island and a business - Sauvie Island Organics - that provides fresh products not only for a community agriculture cooperative, but also for some of Portland's swankier restaurants.
But Raider says she worries what will happen to the island if Measure 49 fails. She worries about the 208 acres right across the road from her house - acres that have a Measure 37 claim for 31 homesites.
And she worries about the island as a whole - about whether some of the large Measure 37 claims on the island would signal the beginning of the end of the island as an agricultural community.
'Sauvie Island is such an incredibly special place,' she says. 'And once you pave it, we've lost it.'
About half of the island's 21,000 acres is a state wildlife refuge. But Measure 37 claims involve about 7 percent of the island's remaining private land - 750 acres.
A few of the Measure 37 claims are for subdivisions that might include dozens or hundreds of houses. Raider says she worries, especially, about those.
'This is an agricultural community, so you have tractors on the road. You have combines at 2 in the morning,' she says. 'If you increase the suburban pressures, it would be hard for farms to continue doing what they're doing.'
Raider says she believes most island residents and farmers are supporters of Measure 49, believing it would allow small-scale development without changing the island.
But some landowners are Measure 49 opponents - and large anti-Measure 49 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' signs dominate the road right after crossing the bridge onto the island.
Which Raider finds ironic.
'Ninety percent of the people coming onto this island at this time of year are coming because of the agricultural practices that are happening on this island,' she says. 'They want to get a pumpkin. They want their kids to experience the country.'
They are greeted with signs that in essence would signal the ending of what they came for, Raider says.
'People don't want to just drive to another subdivision out here.'
M37 gave a 'rubber stamp'
By ANTHONY ROBERTS
Pamplin Media Group
About 100 feet from their back door, Dave and Bobbie Eimers like to relax by one of two spring-fed ponds on their 14 wooded acres set on a hillside above Estacada.
On a recent morning, Bobbie Eimers tosses a handful of fish food into the pond, sending a few ducks flying overhead and bringing several 2-foot-long rainbow trout bobbing to the surface.
'We always dreamed of a getaway in the country, something exactly like this,' Dave Eimers says. 'We had no idea what Measure 37 was when we got here.'
The Eimerses, from Chicago, came to Oregon two years ago by way of San Diego, where they had moved to take care of Bobbie's parents.
On a house-hunting trip to Oregon, they fell in love with the property on South Day Hill Road, a mile outside Estacada. Dave Eimers has spent countless hours removing scrap metal left by the previous owner and restoring trails that wind through the property.
They had never been involved in politics, but now they're fighting for a ballot measure that they believe will help them hang onto their idyllic lifestyle.
Their land is surrounded by Measure 37 claims, including two that could bring drastic changes to the landscape around Day Hill Road.
A pending claim across the street seeks to build one- to five-acre residential lots on 40 acres. An approved claim on the hill above the Eimerses' home seeks up to 115 lots on 115 acres.
The Eimerses believe such a development would destroy the character of the area, bringing scores of cars to a narrow country road and drawing too much water from the aquifer in an area with no municipal water service.
'Spring Creek is on that property, and this is where they want to build. But it would mess up the water supply for everybody downhill,' Bobbie Eimers says.
Gerald and Roberta Curry filed the 115-lot claim. They originally filed for fewer homes on larger lots, but they say their attorney encouraged them to seek higher density, even if they never build that many homes.
The Currys want to set aside property for their five children, impossible with zoning that allows one house per 80 acres.
Development is inevitable, the Eimerses say. But they're frustrated by the leeway Measure 37 gives property owners while leaving county government little choice but to 'rubber stamp' claim approvals.
'They say Measure 49 is a wolf in sheep's clothing,' Dave Eimers says. 'Well, Measure 37 was the lawyers and developers in a little old lady's clothing.'
Water's already strained
By CALVIN HALL
Pamplin Media Group
When Clackamas County officials mailed out a detailed map of more than 1,050 Measure 37 applications in the county - more applications than in any other county in Oregon - that number was just one thing that got Petes Mountain resident Judy Messner interested in Measure 37.
The other was when a local developer presented his plans to neighbors for a three-phase development project. The first phase was the development of 63 acres on Petes Mountain into a subdivision of 41 houses.
Water is hard to come by on Petes Mountain, which is classified by the Oregon Water Resources Department as a groundwater-limited area. Residents have to extract their water through wells to underground volcanic rocks, known as aquifers.
'I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is a water-limited area and you're going to have 41 homes being built here?'' Messner says.
The water availability for the additional development never has been tested because land-use restrictions prevented such development in the first place, Messner says. But she found that with Measure 37, the number of houses on Petes Mountain easily could grow from 120 to more than 300.
Another property owner filed an application to build 26 houses on about 61 acres near her home, which would put further strain on water resources in the area, Messner says.
'Drilling wells can cost up to $50,000 or more, and there is a risk that you won't find anything,' she says. With the increased draw on the aquifers, she adds, 'drilling even deeper into the ground wouldn't find drinkable water.'
Since then, the 60-year-old Messner, a retired manager from Qwest who has lived with her husband on Petes Mountain for 10 years, has followed Measure 37 and legislative attempts to reform it.
She's even testified before the state Legislature on the limited-water issues and development on Petes Mountain.
She supports Measure 49 as a way to stop the large-scale developments while allowing some development to take place and protecting property owners who bought their land after the land-use regulations.
If Measure 49 passes, the large-scale claims such as the two on Petes Mountain could be reduced to one to three houses. That would be a tremendous help with the aquifers and water resources on the mountain, Messner says.
'I believe Measure 49 strikes a decent compromise,' Messner says. 'In the long term it protects the ability of older property owners to do some development, and it gives new property owners some protection. Neither one is getting everything they want.'