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City moves in the right direction with sensitive lands

With city council support, Mayor Studebaker and Councilor Kehoe have presented a natural resources protection proposal to Metro that may finally resolve citizen concerns about the arbitrary application of sensitive lands regulations to private residential properties.

The changes proposed will remove sensitive lands regulations from private residential property, reserving them for public lands. The proposal restores the property rights of those who were damaged by loss of use and value, places them under the same land use regulations as everyone else in the city, and treats all property owners with equality and respect.

In addition, the changes proposed to the sensitive lands program offer improved natural resource protections for Lake Oswego by applying sensitive lands regulations to more, environmentally sensitive public property not currently covered. A win for the environment and a win for citizens.

However, the proposal must now meet the challenges of Metro compliance as well as unsupported objections put forward by some in our community. They say the proposal violates Oregon laws, the environment and wildlife will suffer and our natural resources will no longer be protected. They threaten there will be lawsuits if the proposed changes are made.

Their threats are empty and misleading. Actually, it’s those citizens that have been unfairly burdened by sensitive lands that have the opportunities for lawsuits against both Lake Oswego and Metro. The arbitrary and capricious application of sensitive lands can be easily shown.

Since its inception, the program has only been consistent in the fact that it is inconsistently applied. It started with the first resource inventory where previously identified resources disappeared off the sensitive lands maps. Properties of many who were politically connected were excluded from the sensitive lands maps despite resource identification. There has also been specific exclusion from the maps of some neighborhoods and areas where economic development was planned. Similar resources throughout the city were treated very differently. It’s obvious that sensitive lands has been unfairly applied, lacks environmental benefit, is politically motivated and driven by city and Metro economic development plans rather than environmental protection.

Currently 9 percent of homeowners, accounting for 203 mostly developed acres or 3 percent of all the land in the city, carry the burden for Metro Title 3 and 13 compliance. Most of these properties have little more than ditches and trees that actually do not qualify for regulation under Metro or state definitions. Overregulating 9 percent of citizens is not fair and leaves the city open to lawsuit. There are also potential Measure 49 claims against the city with any further mapping of residential property. And we now have a history of real estate devaluation and lost sales that show the economic damage caused by “sensitive lands” overlays and restrictions.

The proposal has been presented to Metro. We have a council committed to respecting citizens’ rights and that understands that the current sensitive lands program is unfair, wrong and needs to be changed. Metro must find a way to be a good partner with Lake Oswego in moving these changes forward so legal actions brought by citizens can be avoided.

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



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