Make the McKenzie Connection!

Decision on subdivision extended

McKenzie River Golf CourseDEERHORN: Over three dozen comments on a proposal to convert the 9-hole McKenzie River Golf Course into a subdivision were filed with the Lane County by the February 24th deadline. That caused agent Larry Reed, who represents subdivision applicants Rod and Sara Omlid,  to request the file be frozen for 53 days in order for him to respond.

A good number of the com-ments came from nearby neigh-bors concerned with impacts to water quality, alterations to the neighborhood, impacts on property values and views. Others complained about not being made aware of what was being proposed in a timely manner. Some said they would miss having a golf course next door.

Conrad Brown, president of the Deerhorn Ranch Acres Community  Organization,  wrote

to say that he realized that the Omlid family “tried their best to keep their quaint and beautifully located greens a quality showcase,” in spite of weather that kept it closed for a majority of each year. He also supported the idea of planning to build “large-parcel acreage, custom home use; instead of high-density, mobile home, or retail outlets which would have been disastrous for the most beautiful valley in Lane County.” He also suggested raising the lot size from two to five acres.

Brown’s top concerns for the project involved ensuring that “our currently pristine water aquifer be uncompromised in purity and level,” by making sure sewage and drainage would avoid contamination. He also called for an in-depth study of potential increased responses from law enforcement and fire/life safety agencies, as well as traffic flow and parking.

Pamela Nash wrote that she and her husband had purchased their Bridge Street home for two main reasons: to be on a creek and to be next to a golf course. “No longer having a golf course next door would alter our lifestyle and would substantially decrease the value of our house and the ease with which we could sell it,” according to Nash.

Critical of receiving written notice of the planned development on February 14th were Michael and Susan Kerrick. They noted the golf course is bounded on one side by the McKenzie River and Haugen Creek on the other. Citing water quality concerns, the Kerricks submittal noted, “The floods of 1996 saw much of the area impacted by high water, the flood of 1964 saw the entire area under water. The area was impacted again by the flood of January 2012. Effluent from drain fields in this very porous soil so close to these water bodies could easily be discharged into them during periods of high water or if the systems fail,” they felt.

Comments from public agencies included the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality and the Eugene Water and Electric Board.

Pamela Wright, basin coordin-ator with ODEQ, said her agency had concerns about potential quality impacts because of “close proximity to the McKenzie River and what appears to be a backwater slough.” Wright said the river currently is not meeting water quality standards for temperature, bacteria, and mercury/sediment.

She cited the Willamette Basin Total Maximum Daily Load order (a document signed by the DEQ in 2006). “Our first concern is that the riparian vegetation is not currently meeting the TMDL requirements for shade, and further development will degrade the riparian vegetation). We would like to request that the riverbank be planted with trees to meet requirements of the TMDL.”

Wright went on to recommend the developer “should use low impact development and maintain the pre-construction hydrology. This is especially important considering the development is surrounded by surface water.”

Warning that the Federal Energy Management Agency has been successfully sued because the National Flood Insurance Program has allowed development in areas with impacted endangered species was EWEB’s environmental management supervisor Karl Morgenstern. “The McKenzie River has a number of ESA listed species including Upper Willamette Spring Chinook and Bull Trout,” he pointed out.

“Lane County may have some liability for continuing to allow subdivision development in the floodplain at a time when federal programs are undergoing changes to discourage this act-ivity,” according to Morgenstern. “EWEB suggests the director recommends developers take proactive measures to reduce risks to homeowners and disaster responders during major flood events,” he added.

Another nearby homeowner, Joe Moll, is executive director of the McKenzie River Trust. “Because the McKenzie River Golf Course is known to be in a Flood Hazard Area, we understand that review of the suitability of the proposed residential subdivision will thus require special consideration and a higher standard of site planning review.” Moll said he was con-fident there are “solutions that satisfy the landowner’s interest in benefitting from significant investments they have made in the property, while also providing significant benefit as a well managed floodplain property.”

The 53 day waiver is set to end on April 29th. Comments can still be submitted and Reed would like to be able to respond to what has come in, according to associate county planner Jerry Kendall.

A decision by Lane County’s planning director is expected in May. If someone objects to his decision, they can request the matter go before a hearings official, and post a $250 fee. A higher level request  for a review after that would go before the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Criteria for that appeal would need to argue the hearings official exceeded their authority, failed to follow procedures, rendered a decision that is unconstitutional, or misinterpreted the Lane Code, Lane Manual, state law, or other applicable criteria. It carries a higher initial appeal filing fee of $3,812.

Image above: The Lane County Land Management Division is reviewing an application to develop a 27 unit subdivision on the site of the current 58 acre plus McKenzie River Golf Course.


McKenzie River Reflections


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