Our neighborhood's fight against a Measure 37 subdivision that threatens wells and springs often is like a soap opera – lots of drama.
But then there are moments more akin to a Laurel and Hardy show. Their catch phrase was, "Well, there's another fine mess you've gotten me into."
The Measure 37 claimants who are trying to convert 125 acres of vineyard-ready farmland into an asphaltized subdivision also are like drunken cowboys: they keep shooting themselves in the foot.
The most recent self-imposed injury happened yesterday, when the Oregon DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) revoked their erosion control, or 1200-C, permit.
This puts all work on hold for 14 days, because DEQ realized that the development is going to end up clearing way more than five acres – which requires a two week public review of a new 1200-C permit application.
The claimants' contractor, North Santiam Paving, had said that only 4.6 acres of land would be disturbed. You can bet that this number was chosen for one very good reason: it's less than 5.
That sort of duplicity has characterized what's known as the "Laack subdivision" from the start. The property owners assured us neighbors that they'd never go ahead with the development if there wasn't evidence that 42 more wells could be drilled without harming existing wells and springs.
Then, as required by Marion County, they did a study of the groundwater situation, submitted it to an independent expert for review, and the report got a big fat "F" – failure. The expert concluded that, yes, the subdivision does pose a serious threat to our neighborhood's groundwater.
But, hey, this large Measure 37 claim is all about making money, not being a good neighbor. So Leroy Laack, Greg Eide, and the other owners plowed ahead with their plans, aided by two members of the county Board of Commissioners (Sam Brentano and Patti Milne) who voted to ignore the county's groundwater ordinance.
This was a shot in the back of those who already live here. But last month Laack, Eide, and North Santiam Paving returned to their self-shooting mode when they started to build roads on the property without the necessary permits.
Marion County shut them down, but not before they'd wasted almost a week's worth of Cat work on roads that lead to nowhere.
I say "nowhere," because I'm confident that Measure 49 is going to pass on November 6 , which will limit this Measure 37 claim to three home sites on six acres of the least productive farmland – which is close to Liberty Road, nowhere near the roads that had been roughed out.
In their eagerness to thrown money into the development so they could claim that they'd become vested before Measure 49 passes, they forgot that illegal construction doesn't count as a vesting expense.
Then they forgot that concerned neighbors, like me, are looking over their shoulder. It was easy to see that the ground clearing on the subdivision property had gone way beyond what the DEQ permit allowed.
So I filed a complaint with DEQ ten days ago. And yesterday the agency agreed that since more than five acres of land was being disturbed, work had to stop on the site.
The sound of silence already is pleasing to us and our neighbors. It's a preview of the non-construction we're going to be able to enjoy – excepting the three home sites that will be allowed by Measure 49, and the vineyard that we hope will soon sprout on the rest of the property.
Tomorrow night I'm going to speak at a Measure 49 forum in Turner. In my ten to fifteen minutes I'm going to tell the tale of this Measure 37 subdivision that exemplifies so many reasons to vote "Yes" on 49.
--Well-heeled Measure 37 claimants whose attitude is "Why should we care if neighboring wells go dry?", because they plan to have taken the money and run by the time subdivision wells are shut down after more senior wells in the area have problems.
--Developers who resort to illegal construction practices in an attempt to make an end run around the will of Oregonians that will be revealed November 6, when Measure 49 passes.
--Politicians who bend the rules for a few Measure 37 claimants and ignore the property rights of the hundreds of people who already live in our area, many of whom already have water problems and are legitimately worried that 42 more wells are going to make things a lot worse.
Vote for Measure 49.
This isn't a Republican or a Democrat thing. It isn't a conservative or a liberal thing. What we're voting on November 6 will decide the future of Oregon. And how fairly this state treats everyone, not just the few thousand people who have filed Measure 37 claims.
(Here's a guy who once believed in Measure 37 and has now seen the light.)