Last Thursday I fired up our Prius and trundled down to the Capitol to testify in favor of a bill that would prevent additional destination resorts from trashing Oregon's beauty and livability.
Having gotten to the hearing room early, a rarity for me, I was one of the first people to sit at the HB 2227 witness table.
Early on in my testimony I plugged a 2007 blog post, "Save the Metolius from destination resorts," quoting an outrageous remark by Bill Bellamy, a Jefferson County commissioner.
Against the wishes of local residents in the Camp Sherman area, Jefferson County pushed through zoning changes that would allow two large destination resorts in and near the Metolius River basin.
Currently the full-time population of the basin is only several hundred. The resorts would add up to 10,000 more people at peak times.
I told the Oregon House Land Use Committee that we were drawn to become part owners of a forest service cabin on the Metolius because the area was so unspoiled.
Black Butte Ranch, a nearby destination resort, didn't appeal to us because we wanted to vacation in natural surroundings rather than golf courses, swimming pools, and paved bike paths.
This, I said, is what draws visitors to the Metolius and other world-class environmental attractions in Oregon. It sure isn't destination resorts. How many people go to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park because they've heard of a great resort there?
Not many, for sure.
I was pleased to hear Rep. Mitch Greenlick ask another witness a question along that very line, after this Chamber of Commerce type had testified that destination resorts are just the most wonderful thing, because they attract so many visitors to Oregon.
Greenlick wanted her to comment on the idea that what draws people to areas like the Metolius River Basin is their naturalness -- a lack of subdivison-like destination resorts and other quasi-urban amenities.
She dodged the question, being one of the few witnesses at the hearing in favor of more destination resorts, and so not wanting to admit that plunking hundreds or thousands of homes down in the middle of a forest isn't the best way to attract more visitors to "unspoiled Oregon."
1000 Friends of Oregon lists other problems with destination resorts here. But in these tough economic times some are willing to ignore those drawbacks because they believe resorts are a financial gold mine for cash-strapped counties.
Rep. Gene Whisnant made this claim in his testimony. He lives in Sunriver, a central Oregon destination resort. Not surprisingly, he thought the resorts are wonderful and waxed on about the benefits they bring to a local economy.
Unfortunately, Whisnant left the hearing before Eric Kancler from Central Oregon Landwatch demolished that argument. With facts, in the form of a recently released analysis of the costs and benefits of destination resorts in Oregon.
It turns out that these resorts end up costing taxpayers a whole bunch of money for roads, schools, and other infrastucture, over and above what they bring in via property taxes and such. Here's a summary of the findings.
A proposed Deschutes County resort was used as an example.
Sure, there's a place for destination resorts. But what they've largely become in Oregon are rural subdivisons for full and part-time homeowners, rather than dedicated tourist facilities.
A Crook County rancher testified that he can't even get into a nearby destination resort. It's a gated community. A costly one, according to the Central Oregon Landwatch study.
The most fundamental question that this report seeks to answer is, "How will the approval of a destination affect local taxpayers and the general public?"
The answer it turns out, is that the standard model for a golf-course subdivision-oriented destination resort presents local governments and taxpayers with a substantial net burden that will result either in higher overall taxes or a decrease in the quality of basic services.
Brian, thank you for your good work and thoughtful comments on this.
Very well said!
Posted by: Harry Vanderpool | March 14, 2009 at 09:24 PM
Thank you for what you do for the cause of land use in Oregon. The beautiful Metolius especially deserves protection but those who only value money need to see more reasons to block this kind of thing. Maybe, for those capable of thinking, you have given them some to think about. Very frustrating as once such a development is there, there is no taking it back
Posted by: Rain | March 15, 2009 at 09:20 AM
I enjoyed your video of the Suttle Lk trail. Did you know that the Metolian is a eco-friendly plan that doesn't even take water from the ground-unlike the lodge where you stayed. The Ponderosa is 6mi from the river and the wells would tap into the Deschutes basin waters. What is happening in area ne of sisters now is urban sprawl - I think everyone has their panties in a bunch because many think its going to be ON the metolius. I am alittle sick of the 'not in my backyard-I have my slice of heaven' people incl. the governor. I have a place near there and would like to see it happen- with the approved amount for the Ponderosa plan quite a bit smaller.
Posted by: cay | March 17, 2009 at 07:03 PM
Informative post! Thanks. I'd rather support more usage for camping and other lighter footprint development. If people want to go see a concrete jungle complete with pools, restaurants and casinos, there are already plenty of options.
Posted by: lavachickie | March 18, 2009 at 03:28 PM