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|Norm's Notebook: From Forest to McMansion, How It Could Happen Here
Can Dogpatched, Deserted Cabins Be "Grandfathered In" for a New Development? Maybe...
By Norm Maxwell
Posted on Sep 27, 2003
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About a mile downstream of the Siuslaw from the dead end of Fire Road is a brand new clear cut. I have been expecting something like this for a long time.
I don’t think this is your ordinary clear cut simply for timber on both sides of the Siuslaw Access Road. Rather I suspect that it the overture to a full blown housing development that if unresisted, will net the successful developer millions of dollars.
The unit that was cut contains about a dozen Dogpatch cabins. Most of them are uninhabited with holes in the roofs and no plumbing. I have heard at one time there were even more but some fell down through neglect and some were burned because they had been used as meth kitchens. I don’t know how true all this is.
Before World War II this cluster of cabins was known as Fitch’s Camp and loggers with their families lived there and helped cut big trees by hand and load them on the Chambers logging rail road to ship to the mills in Lorane and Cottage Grove. There was even a lumber mill at the end of Fire Road that most likely received timber from this operation.
Eventually the Siuslaw Road was paved and log trucks replaced the trains and the tracks were torn up, the trestles over the river fell down and still people continued to live in the old cabins on the Forestry 2 (F2) designated land.
What will happen next? It is not supposed to be possible to throw down a bunch of houses of an F-2 clear cut, but unless I miss my guess, that is exactly what is going to happen. The developer will use some sort of premise like: Since there were at least a dozen cabins on the F-2 land, there needs to be at least a dozen building sites for modern McMansions on the Siuslaw riverfront stump farm.
Lane County’s Land Management Division will back him up to the extent of supplying him a County staff attorney to defend their combined multi- million dollar agenda at no expense to the developer. The neighbors will be kept in the dark about Lane County “lot line adjustments” and the resultant “migrating tax lots” that will suddenly appear and form the exact specifications required for maximum profit by the developer. If the neighbors find out about these actions, they will be told that these moves are “preliminary” and can’t be challenged. The next stage after preliminary is “too late” and it can’t be challenged either.
The County staff attorney is paid by the LMD with funds acquired through fees collected from building permits and other development related activities. Although the money may not come directly out of county taxpayers' pockets, bear in mind that when the LMD comes up short the difference is made up with the general fund which does. Barring this, shouldn't the LMD put out land use decisions and actions that don't have to be defended?
The LMD receives its budget through building fees and has repeatedly proven itself to be an agent for all developers. Developers and their friend Benjamin Franklin rate expeditious service you and I don’t get at the LMD. I have personal experience with this.
I am not sure if Dogpatch is in Lane County’s Eastern or Western District. Fire Road used to be in the Western District but I think it got gerrymandered into the Eastern District by a narrow arm that comes west from Cottage Grove and then turns north at Lorane and goes to Crow. This happened a year or two ago during “redistricting” the five districts in LC so that the populations of each would be more or less equal.
I can't tell precisely where the new boundary lines fall. It is very close by. I suspect Dogpatch is in West Lane. West Lane’s Anna Morrison is a very pro-development county commissioner. I think she prefers the term “pro-property rights” but it is the same thing. East Lane County has no county commissioner at all now. When the developer tries to create lots at Dogpatch, the LMD will notify as few adjoining land owners as possible. If somebody challenges what is going down, the LMD will side with the developer. If the Lane County hearings official finds in favor of the challenger, the LMD will appeal Lane County’s own official decision along with the developer and the HO will obligingly rerverse himself. All this happened during the attempted development of Fire Road a few years back.
Commissioner Morrison informed me with heat that the LC hearings official (HO) is a contracted employee. I don’t discern any practical distinction in this status. The HO has been receiving paychecks from the county for years and citizens are not allowed to provide their own hearings officials. The HO is an employee of Lane County as far as I'm concerned.
What now? Will the neighborhood successfully resist this latest assault on resource land? Any land use action that goes unchallenged is automatically legal in Lane County. Developers and the Land Management Division are one. Challengers of development are not allowed to win in Lane County. They will be given every possible chance to run out of money and go away before they reach Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals and Oregon’s Court of Appeals where influence weakens for the LMD/developer complex.
The complex stands to make millions if it can prevail while the little people trying to make the LMD observe Oregon land use law and Lane County's own land use policies will have to shell out their own dough with no chance of recovery when they win.
Block Captain (retired)
Fire Road Defense League
Visit Norm Maxwell's other writings at West By Northwest.org:
Norm's Notebook: A Few Acres, a Few Chickens–Who Is Living on the Land Now
Remembering the 30 Mile Fire
Old Men and Fire
The Fire of South Canyon: Remembering Storm King
Wee-wee for BB
Norm's Notebook: The Story of the Spruce Tree, and Mosby Creek, a New Land Use Lot Adjustment
Norm's Notebook: Dead Cars and the Six Million Dollar Manx
(Editor's note–Norm's "Dead Cars" story inspired a feature story in the Register Guard, "Heaps of trouble in the woods.")
Mentoring Military Style
Three Dollar Hammer
Song of the Open Road
Remember Fire Road
Home, Home on Fire Road
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