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Tempers sizzle at planning commission

From the January 28, 1983 issue of River Reflections

Tempers sizzled Tuesday, January 25th, at the Lane County Planning Commissioners' public hearing for the new countywide rezoning plan, though most of them had to be put on the back burner once again.

More than 100 Lane County residents, most of them senior citizens from rural areas, showed up at Harris Hall to voice comments and concerns about the new rezoning package.

Gene Kanes, chairman of the planning commission, announced that the Comprehensive Plan Revision, which the county has been working on for the past two years in an attempt to meet the State Land Comprehensive and Development Commission land use planning goals, was rejected by LCDC last week.

The audience groaned and a few disgruntled observers voiced their opinion of the unpopular LCDC decision by quick outbursts.

Gerald Derby of Fox Hollow Road said, “It’s just like the knife is in the back.”

Lloyd Burns, manager of planning and community development, laid out four steps the planning commissioners could take in trying to meet the state land use goals These are:

1. That the planning commission postpone specific zone change plans until they develop goals and maps.

2. That the county staff present a planned schedule of less than necessary plan policy and map changes. Some changes will require more information gathering and public hearings.

3. That the planning commission must revaluate all zone change requests based on new planned policies and maps prior to public hearings.

4. That staff report all names of people inquiring about the plan and notify those people of any changes.

Burns said there will probably not be another public hearing for 3 to 4 months.

The commissioners then opened up the floor for public testimony.

Board member Suzanne Boyd said the board would only accept general comments. “It’s just a shame with all these people here, but the land zones are back in limbo and no one knows which lands will be in which zone.”

The zone changes can dramatically affect owners by dictating what they can and can’t do with their land and by changing the assessed value (and the taxes) of the property.

Testimony lasted 2 1/2 hours.

Derby said, “We were led to believe we were taking part in this — and some of it was starting to make sense — the next meeting they’ll tell us what to do. I’m set up and being led down the trail and stabbed in the back.”

He said, “We finally got McCall (the late former governor, Tom McCall, originator of LCDC) in the ground. I wish we could put a few other things in the ground.”

He added that he believed the Lane County planning commissioners were on their (Lane County residents) side with only a couple of exceptions.

Mike Yeager advised the commissioners to make a plan with county residents' best interests in mind, not the LCDC. “Let them (LCDC) take the brunt, don’t let (local) staff.”

He told them, “Go slowly, don’t make them too confident.” They “have to appreciate where people can get lost in the process,” he said.

The most strident complaint was the lack of notification of zone changes and a public hearing. Kanes estimated it would cost anywhere up to $40,000 to notify all property owners of changes throughout the year.

David Hemenway of Cottage Grove said the board has a moral if not a legal obligation to notify owners of significant land use changes.

Planning commissioner Dennis Cuddeback requested Burns to investigate the costs of notification by mail or purchasing advertisements in community newspapers. B.J. Rogers of Dexter lamented the lack of communication between the public and the planning board. The commissioners pointed out that only a small handful of people ever show up for a hearing before final plans are made.

Rogers agreed that “communication with the public is difficult until their ox is gored.” He also said that often when they do speak up officials don’t listen.”

Bill Bain, the county assessor, urged people to be positive and productive and to tell their legislators of their complaints about the LCDC.

William Johnston of Chesire said, “It’s beyond me why this was not run through the LCDC before it had an audience of people show up for its hearing.”

Kanes responded that the LCDC has recently begun a policy of reviewing plans before submission and will try to prevent this from happening again.

Several people complained that many property owners have planned to use their land to retire on or divide it for retirement income. They are now being told that they won’t be able to carry out those plans. They urged the commissioners to give major consideration to landowners whose life savings and dreams are often invested in land.

A few people said they were in favor of the LCDC philosophy but they believed that in practice that there were many problems and that rural minorities bore an unproportionately high cost for land use planning.

The planning commission was also urged to find a category for marginal lands. That is smaller than 1 - 6 acre parcels — so those owners won’t be stuck in a resource zone where they would be prevented from building or forced to produce an income from the land.

LCDC has not yet but is planning to put a deadline on the county for meeting statewide land use goals. If the county does not meet the deadline the LCDC could impose a moratorium on certain kinds of permits.

The planning commissioners urged everyone who wants to be kept informed of zone changes and public hearings to contact the planning commission in the Lane County Courthouse. It is also possible to find out the zoning for specific parcels of land.

The board said the planning division business will go on as usual until they develop a new zoning package. Their hours are 10 am-noon, 1 pm - 2 pm, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.


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