There's only eleven there now. The proposed 125 acre, 42-lot subdivision on groundwater limited farmland near us in south Salem should be one of them. Along with other Oregon land use travesties that make you think, "How could they try to get away with this outrage?"
Lots of they's in Oregon are much more concerned with money and politics than fairness and respect for our state.
Oregonians in Action. Big timber companies and other large claimants. Republican state legislators who dug in their heels on fixing Measure 37 this session (which is why we're having to vote on Measure 49 in November).
Add two members of the Marion County Board of Commissioners to that list. Sam Brentano and Patti Milne have never seen a Measure 37 subdivision they didn't like, even if the county's own water experts found that it poses a significant threat to existing water users.
Last Wednesday the Board had on its agenda our request to reconsider their horribly ill-advised decision to approve the Laack subdivision. The Board went against the Marion County Planning Commission and its own groundwater ordinance when the development was given an OK even though an assessment of the area's water supply came up with a "No way!"
I wrote the reconsideration request for our neighborhood's Keep Our Water Safe committee. I not-so-humbly have termed it a staggering literary work of land use appeal genius. It's wonderfully well written, logically presented, and highly persuasive.
If you have an open mind.
Which, unfortunately, Sam Brentano and Patti Milne don't. Without a word of explanation they dismissed my five pages of objections to a legally and ethically senseless decision.
And here's the worst part, the most outrageous outrage. Commissioner Janet Carlson pointed it out at the Board meeting:
This issue is complicated by the Measure 37 referendum [Measure 49]. If this wasn't the case, different decisions might be made.
Thanks for telling it like it is, Commissioner Carlson.
But you're being generous toward your colleagues when you said "might." It's obvious that "almost certainly" would be more accurate. Obvious, because this was the big concern of Brentano and Milne at the meeting where the Laack subdivision was approved.
They were deeply concerned about whether the Measure 37 applicant would be able to move ahead with the subdivision if a Hydro Study of the water situation was required, as the county ordinance demands.
They were told that a Study would extend well past the effective date of the Measure 37 fix (Measure 49), which would mean that only three homes could be built on this groundwater limited farmland.
So Brentano and Milne voted to allow 42 more wells in our neighborhood, even though independent water experts hired by the county said this would put surrounding wells and springs at high risk. They cared a lot about the Measure 37 applicant. They didn't care at all about the rights of hundreds of people already living here.
That's an outrage.
The county commissioners are acting in a quasi-judicial role when they hear appeals of land use decisions. Their first and only duty is to look at the facts in the case and do what the law demands. In this instance the Measure 37 applicant agreed to conduct a Hydro Review assessment of the area water supply, as required by a county ordinance.
The applicant also agreed to submit the Review to an independent hydrogeological consulting firm that serves as a peer reviewer for Marion County. The applicant's attorney even urged the commissioners to rely on the advice of the peer reviewer, assuming that the advice would be favorable to the Measure 37 claimant.
It wasn't. The Hydro Review failed. The county groundwater ordinance demands that either the subdivision plans be shelved, or a one to two year Hydro Study involving the collection of additional water data be conducted.
Brentano and Milne picked a third purely political option: tell us and our rural neighbors, "we don't care if your wells go dry; we just want to try to help Leroy Laack, Greg Eide, and the other claimants get their subdivision built before the Measure 37 fix goes into effect."
Voters of Marion County, keep that sentiment in mind come county commissioner election time.
Do you want to be represented by people who have such little respect for the rule of law? Who bend their votes to fit their personal politics, rather than the facts? Who make decisions for the benefit of a few who want to make money instead of the many who want their wells not to go dry?
We're going to appeal this decision. Outrages that are this outrageous can't be allowed to stand.
[Update: We appreciate the support from some other outraged bloggers. Take a look at Loaded Orygun's "Shafting in progress on M37 claim" and The ZehnKatzen Times' "What about Brian and Laurel?" It's not about us, of course. We just represent hundreds of neighbors who are concerned about their water.]