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March 29, 2022


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Nicely explained, Blogger Brian. Yes, it is clear, part of the community wants to preserve the land as public open space in south Salem, but that wish does not provide a legal basis for not approving a proposed subdivision.

The missing ingredients are the legal issues upon which a decision was or was not made. Your posts have yet to identify which legal elements were missed by Council and could be challenged by the Friends of Myer's Farm. The Salem tree ordinance is the only legal theme you cite.

Just what are the valid grounds for a LUBA appeal that you suggest at the end of the blog?

E.M., as I noted in this post, one seemingly valid basis for appeal is the contested ownership of the Meyer Farm property. This is being argued in court between two factions of the Meyer family, to my understanding. I recall that an attorney appointed as a temporary trustee is the person who agreed to develop the land. It seems wrong that a subdivision can be built on the authority of a temporary trustee when the ownership of the property the subdivision is to be built on hasn't been legally decided yet.

Here's how an opponent of the subdivision responded to Whitney Woodworth of the Statesman Journal, which was shared in a Facebook post today. Note the final paragraph..
“Hi Whitney,

I recognize and appreciate that the City Councilors are volunteers who have a tremendous amount on their plates. There have also been some incredibly tragic events that have happened over the past weekend, and I refuse to pretend that land use issues are at all more significant than true life-or-death situations. I was moved to tears by some of the statements made by Councilors which honored and recognized the preventable and tragic loss of human lives downtown this past weekend. What is obvious to me is that we have a Council full of people who genuinely care about the citizens of Salem. That is a comforting thought when considering who we want to have making decisions that affect us all.

It was also apparent to me that while this application to develop the Meyer Farm may not impact everyone in this city, the majority of the Councilors were not happy about this vote. What concerned me most about what I saw last night was whether or not the correct facts were considered. There was a lot of discussion over how this application related to the past Costco debate, what a "reasonable design alternative" means, and whether Councilors felt they even had any other option than to approve this application. It appears they feel that they did not.

But the fact is, they did have the option to legally deny it, and the method to do so was clearly outlined for them in public testimony. I’m not sure everyone reviewed that fact though, because it was not mentioned last night at all.

This is a complicated situation for many reasons, but what it boiled down to last night was whether or not this application met all of the required approval criteria.

It did not.

(If you want to, you can review exactly how and why this is true in the last round of submitted public testimony. It’s too long to insert here.)

I also found it incredibly contradictory that this whole thing appears to hinge on the protection of trees when Mayor Bennett proclaimed next month to be Arbor Month, celebrating Salem’s 46th consecutive year as an Arbor Day Foundation Nationally-Recognized Tree City. Especially biting was hearing how the City Arborist’s personal motto is “Saving the city, one tree at a time.”

I know that many people reading the articles written about this farm believe all of this fuss is “just a NIMBY issue”. I get it--saving trees is not everyone's priority. And while the trees are genuine concern of mine, they are honestly not the biggest problem with this situation; They are just the means to make the situation right, which the Friends of the Meyer Farm group still intends to see happen. We are not done with this fight.

The fact is, this land does not belong to this applicant, and possibly never will. Until the legal dispute over the trust case involving this land has been resolved, there should not be any action taken that would essentially destroy it. The fact that our city’s code is so flawed that someone who does not have a vested legal right to a piece of property can be allowed to submit an application to develop that property, is something that every citizen should be concerned about.

It could be your property next.”

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