Apr 21st, 2005 - 21:10:55
American Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Catholic Reporter
British Broadcasting Company
Christian Science Monitor
The Register Guard
Environmental News Network
Federation of American Scientists
Car Free Times
The Travels of our First Webmaster
Voices of the Northwest
|Take Two: Jackson Road
There are two kinds of people in Lane County. Those who make lots of money from development--and those who don't.
By Norm Maxwell
Posted on Jan 21, 2004
Email this article
Printer friendly page
On January 14th our Lane County Board of Commissioners voted three to two to deny the petition for the vacation of a section of a 1912 county road easement called WW Jackson near Fox Hollow Road.
There was much more to the story than the simple relinquishment of an ancient road easement that nobody has used within living memory. First the supposed road easement had been used to create an additional tax lot perhaps the size of a one car garage. Now the developer wants to vacate the old road easement so he can move and grow his new lot using a Lane County "lot line adjustment" for maximum profitability.
Oregon land use law is clear that roads are not used as property lines to create additional lots. Lincoln County was busted for this hooey a few years back and was served an enforcement order by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development telling the Lincoln County Land Management Division to get into compliance with state law. Lane County land use policies are guilty of the same violations. County land use policy may not be less restrictive than state law.
I had hoped to resolve this and other land use issues a few years back when a developer, with the aid of Lane County's Land Management Division, tried the same tactics at the dead end of Fire Road near Lorane. My attorney presented seven highly questionable maneuvers used by the developer and LMD at the initial hearing with the Lane County hearings official. The hearings official denied the attempted rezoning for several reasons. One of the clearest being that roads do not divide one tax lot into two. He also failed to validate a pair of lot line adjustments" that weren't even close to Oregon law and actually violated Lane County's own developer friendly land use policy.
Although the hearings official reversed himself after the LMD appealed his decision along with the developer, he never retracted his contention that the road does not divide tax lots. Rather, he insulated this from my attack. The hearings official's reversal of the original Fire Road decision was one shaky document. I am convinced that the developer and the LMD were convinced that I would burn out and go away and they would get to throw down a bunch of lots in the Siuslaw floodplain at the end of Fire Road.
Our Land Management Division derives it operating funds from building permits and similar fees. It naturally caters to developers over little people. When a developer creates a new lot the LMD makes lots of money through resultant fees. I won the Fire Road fight on the first issue that came before a three judge panel of Oregon's Court of Appeals.
It was the simple concept that all lots involved in the attempted re-zone had to be legally created. Maxwell v. Lane County was remanded back to the Land Use Board of Appeals where three LUBA "referees" had rubberstamped the new, improved reversed decision. LUBA hot potatoed it back to the county to fix and I was able to negotiate from a position of strength to put Fire Road back the way it was. I didn't want to spent the hundred thousand dollars and the decade that it would have taken to run each Fire Road legal element through the system one at a time.
Even though the negation of the original "road dividing lots" element of the Fire Road decision by our hearings official is still effective, it was just too lucrative for the LMD to give up. The developer has done nothing that the LMD told him that he couldn't. There are two kinds of people in Lane County. Those who make lots of money from development--and those who don't. When a developer manages to create a lot with the aid of the LMD, he makes a lot of money.
Allow me to tell you that there isn't one red cent to be made riding herd on Lane County's LMD/developer complex, trying to make it obey state law. The developer now needs to get rid of the invisible road after he used it to divide his lot into two. The Board of Commissioners has now denied his petition to do so. And the LMD and the Board of Commissioners are scheduled to implement the LMD Task Force's recommendations next month.
The Task Force's first recommendation was to make the Lane County "lot line adjustment" comply to state standards and be noticed to, and be subject to challenge from little people instead of the phantom land use decision it is currently. The Lane County lot line adjustment usually goes hand in hand with the road dividing tax lots gambit. What will happen now? I don't know but neither the LC lot line adjustment or the dividing road theory can withstand the hard light of day outside the basement of the Lane County Public Building.
I hope our commissioners will fix the problem so that I can stand down. Most little people will not fight city hall when a highly questionable development appears like a mushroom overnight next door. They don't know where to start and it is frequently too late when they find out. Our Land Management Division tells the irate citizen that everything is either "preliminary" and can't be challenged, or "final" and can't be challenged either. Take your pick. There is no immediate gratification in fighting the combined resources of the LMD and developer in this game and it costs you money, even when you win.
The Jackson Road development attempt sat on the back burner for a couple years while the battle for Fire Road ran its course. Now it is back. Fire Road was the high water mark of developer bayonet expansionism in rural Lane County. I sincerely hope we can get our Lane County land use policies into compliance with Oregon land use law. I had hoped to modify the LMD's behavior with a sweeping strategic victory through the LMD Task Force process but it looks like it will have to be done tactically, one violation at a time. So be it.
Copyright © 2004 by Norm Maxwell
Visit Norm Maxwell's pieces about land use, firefighting and life in the country and more at West By Northwest.org:
Norm's Notebook: A Last Look from the Big Rabbit
Norm's Notebook: From Forest to McMansion, How It Could Happen Here
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 and more.
© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By Northwest.org
Top of Page