Thank you to Mayor Studebaker and Councilors Kehoe, Gudman, Bowerman and O’Neill for their votes in a 5 to 2 decision on March 19 to move forward with a proposal to create a more equitable, respectful and responsible approach to the sensitive lands program. This new approach finally addresses citizens’ concerns about sensitive lands:

  • That sensitive lands is a political trade program, not an environmental program
  • That property selections have been arbitrary and capricious
  • That private property owners have been damaged by limited use and loss of value of their properties
  • And that those with sensitive lands designations (10 percent of homeowners) are being sacrificed and traded for “public benefit”

    Based on a proposal brought to the council last year by land use attorney Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action, this new approach provides a fair, reasonable, common sense solution to citizens’ concerns. It recognizes that the 203 acres of private residential property currently burdened with sensitive lands is not the most environmentally significant land and can be regulated like 90 percent of the community under the multitude of environmental regulations in the community development code and tree code. And, it recommends that about 200 acres of public park/natural areas be added to the sensitive lands program.

    Revising where sensitive lands apply is a solution that actually is more beneficial to the environment as it protects the larger tracts of public park/natural areas that are more environmentally significant than citizens’ developed yards. It also actually is in closer alignment with Metro’s maps and intent. The proposal also includes the city increasing restoration and maintenance activities on our 600 acres of parks and natural areas, most of which a consultant says are currently in “poor” condition. And, it engages the entire community, not just the current 10 percent, in stewardship education so that we are all pulling together and invested in environmental issues in our community.

    While staff has indicated that Metro may have some objections to the new proposal, there are answers and solutions to all of these objections. Councilor Jordan’s assertion that Metro and other land use organizations should control the rights our citizens have to the use and value of their private property is the same argument made by previous councils that divided this community. We are thankful that a majority of the council decided to move from what has been five years of a “can’t do” process to a new can-do attitude that respects and values all citizens.

    This is an opportunity to end the division that was created from the decision in the late 1990s to “trade” and over-regulate some properties so that others could have more use and development. That inequity will finally be resolved.

    Mayor Studebaker and Councilors Kehoe, Gudman, Bowerman and O’Neill are willing to push past the obstacles and stand up for citizens’ rights while also respecting the environment and trying to work with Metro compliance requirements.

    Please join us in supporting and thanking the mayor and council as they work for equitable solutions to the sensitive lands program.

    Bob Thompson, Lake Oswego, is a member of LO Stewards.

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