First, the good news: I looked fine on yesterday's KATU (Channel 2) news story about the Marion County Board of Commissioner's horrendous decision to approve a 42-lot Measure 37 subdivision that we've been fighting—along with forty other neighbors.
My previous television news appearances have left me watching the clip with a Who the hell is that old disheveled geezer? in my mind. So when I got a call from Dino, the KATU cameraman based in Salem, asking if I could meet him at the subdivision property in 45 minutes, I had time to primp up.
Now, the bad news: in the story Commissioner Sam Brentano spoke the same fiction that he did at the Board of Commissioner's meeting on Wednesday where he and Patti Milne ignored scientific evidence and their own Planning Commission in voting to approve this groundwater disaster in the making.
Here's what Brentano told the KATU reporter:
You follow the rules that are in place here. And the Planning Commission erred in trying to change the rules on the developer.
That's wrong, as I'll explain below. What I said is correct:
It [the decision] was just purely political, and made an effort to get this subdivision built, no matter what, before the Measure 37 fix in the fall is approved by voters.
(OK, I should have said, "approved by voters in the fall," but when a camera is running, the brain doesn't work quite as smoothly.")
Wednesday the commissioners started off with an extensive discussion of whether Leroy Laack, the Measure 37 claimant, could get his subdivision "vested" before the ballot referral vote on HB 3540-C.
The conclusion was that he might be able to if the application was approved; he couldn't if a Hydrogeological Study was required, as independent geological experts hired by Marion County had recommended and the county's groundwater ordinance demanded.
So the facts ended up being massaged to fit a pre-determined conclusion by Brentano and Milne—a really disgusting way to treat the public. The Keep Our Water Safe Committee that my wife chairs had raised $22,000 to gather and present evidence that the subdivision posed a threat to our water supplies. Our neighborhood association chipped in another $5,000.
We deserved an honest forthright decision from the Board of Commissioners. We didn't get it. Brentano had it backwards: we, the subdivision opponents, had the rules changed, not the developer.
We helped convince the independent experts that there's inadequate evidence of adequate water for the subdivision. That should have triggered a one to two year Hydro Study where new information is gathered about the area's hydrogeologic situation.
Instead, Brentano and Milne came up with a completely B.S. fabricated reason for approving the subdivision.
Their own Planning Commission had spent nine hours considering the ins and outs of the application, eventually deciding that when the applicant threw a single 92 acre lot into an average lot size calculation along with 42 mostly two to three acre lots, just to meet a 5 acre threshold, this was a classic case of "fuzzy math."
The large lot isn't part of the subdivision. It won't supply water to the subdivision. It's in a different aquifer from the 42 lots. In other words, it's a terribly skewed (and screwy) distribution. In cases like this, statisticians agree that's it's entirely appropriate to toss out the outlier—a 92 acre lot that doesn't belong.
Marion County has never had a land use application where a developer tried to play this sort of game. Leroy Laack is the first. So Sam Brentano is wrong when he says that the Planning Commission changed the rules on the developer. There weren't any prior rules about how to handle a sneaky attempt to do a run-around the groundwater ordinance.
The Planning Commission established a rule that made sense: if a very large lot is included in a subdivision application purely for the purpose of manipulating the average lot size calculation to be more than 5.0 acres, don't include the lot in the calculation. They recognized that Laack was trying to cheat his way to a Measure 37 subdivision.
A lot of people in our neighborhood are fighting mad about what Brentano and Milne have done. These county commissioners see nothing wrong with approving a 42-lot subdivision after the county's own experts have said, "There's not enough evidence of adequate water for the development."
After the decision last Wednesday, one of our supporters said "Chutzpah has its own karma." I liked the slogan, combining as it did two seemingly disparate religions. But they do indeed each subscribe to a what goes around, comes around philosophy.
Replacements for Brentano and Milne need to be found. They're disasters — uninformed, untruthful, unashamed of trashing the property rights of the many in favor the few.
Kounty Kommissioner Karma. Hopefully it's coming to an election near us soon.