Challenge involves scaled-back rules on environmentally sensitive lands

Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands has filed a motion to intervene in the appeal of the city’s decision to remove special protections from a handful of tree groves.

Metro challenged the rollback of restrictions on environmentally sensitive lands in August, after the city council voted 4-3 to remove protections from six tree groves in the city. An appeal is now making its way through the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals process.

Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands, also known as LO Stewards, formed in 2009 in opposition to the way the city identifies properties for inclusion in its sensitive lands program, which aims to protect natural resources by setting limits on development and land use near waterways and groups of trees.

In a public announcement about joining the case on the city’s side, David Streiff, president of the Stewards board, said the group felt obligated “to advocate for the city’s right to make decisions about the sensitive lands program that respect citizens and their properties.”

“Since its inception, LO Stewards has sought to preserve the beauty and livability of Lake Oswego while championing the equal rights of all Lake Owego property owners to make reasonable use of their land,” he said.

The city council has been working for a couple of years to tweak the sensitive lands program, in place since the late 1990s.

In addition to scaling back some of the tighter restrictions in 2010, the city council agreed to consider changes that would remove protections from certain tree groves, eliminating habitat-related restrictions on many private properties.

The recent decision ran counter to input from Metro planners, who had told city officials that removing protections from one particular stand of trees would put Lake Oswego in conflict with a regional policy requiring preservation of fish and wildlife habitat.

Despite the warning, councilors Mike Kehoe, Jeff Gudman, Mary Olson and Bill Tierney supported the change, while councilors Sally Moncrieff and Donna Jordan and Mayor Jack Hoffman were opposed.

“It’s the citizens and their property values and rights that we need to consider above all,” Kehoe said at a July meeting. “I think we’ve already got an incredible amount of trees here that have been protected for years by all the regulations that were already in existence.”

On the other side of the vote, Moncrieff said she felt trees have environmental value beyond simply providing wildlife habitat, and “they absolutely contribute to neighborhood character and community identity.”

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