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Posted by  Rob Zako on November 25, 2002 at 17:10:49:

In case you missed this story in the RG today...


November 25, 2002

Eugene noting natural resources

The Register-Guard

The letter from the Eugene Planning Division grabbed Hal Cook's attention.

The retired federal employee had become well-versed in the city's permit
process while remodeling his home in the southeast hills over the
previous six months.

"My knee-jerk reaction was, `Oh good grief, what are they doing to me
now?' " Cook said.

But the letter was about something else. In the first sentence, in big,
bold letters, Cook learned that the wooded lot he bought the year before
"is proposed to be included in Eugene's inventory of natural resource

It further explained that the city may consider new development
regulations or restrictions for the property to protect wildlife habitat.

"That was kind of scary," Cook said. "My first thought was this was
potentially a big problem."

Or maybe it would be of no consequence at all. A week later, he still
isn't sure. And he's not alone.

Copies of the letter were mailed Nov. 15 to 4,500 landowners in Eugene
and within the city's urban growth boundary.

"We are hearing a lot of concern from property owners because they are
unsure what this means," said Ann Siegenthaler, a natural resources
specialist for the city who fielded calls from about 150 curious
landowners in the first few days after the letters went out. "They want
to know how this might affect future plans for their property."

For now, there's no clear answer.

"None of us know what specific implications will be for any given site,"
Siegenthaler said.

In about a year, however, the planning commission and City Council will
consider new regulations for lands that remain on the list of significant
natural resource sites. New rules could limit or even prohibit
development on certain lots.

In deciding now which lands belong in the inventory, the city is taking
the first step in a required update of the statewide planning goal that
directs all cities and counties to conserve open space and protect
natural and scenic resources.

Eugene has spent the past four years surveying riparian areas -- rivers,
creeks and drainage ditches -- and upland wildlife habitat, largely found
in the forested south hills.

>From that, the city proposed an inventory of 44 sites totaling about
3,700 acres of public and private lands. Sites range in size from West
Lawn Memorial Park, a cemetery of less than an acre on South Danebo
Avenue, to a 1,247-acre swath of the south hills.

Many lots made the list because they are adjacent to "significant"
wildlife habitat or riparian areas. About 1,100 acres relate to riparian
sites and about 2,600 acres are in upland habitat.

The city will do additional surveys next year to add wetlands, beyond
those already protected in west Eugene, to the natural resources
inventory. That work isn't expected to be finished until next fall.

After that, the city must analyze what land uses allowed under current
zoning might conflict with the protection of natural resources. That
evaluation takes into account economic, social, environmental and energy

But now is the time for affected property owners to speak up if they
dispute the city's proposal to include their land in the riparian and
upland habitat inventory, Siegenthaler said.

"Some of these sites could drop off, and some sites could be added," she

A public hearing is set Dec. 17 before the planning commission and
written comments will be taken until noon that day.

"If they disagree that their site is important for wildlife habitat, they
should let the planning commission know why," Siegenthaler said.
"Likewise, if we have citizens out there who know of habitat in their
neighborhood that was not included and they believe it should be, this is
their opportunity to let the planning commission know."

Property owners also are welcome to share any concerns they have about
potential development scenarios that could be narrowed as a result of
natural resource protections.

"I would encourage people to pay close attention now," Siegenthaler said.
"If they have concerns about how this might affect development on their
property, they should let the planning commission know now."

But she added that inclusion of a lot in the inventory doesn't guarantee
that more stringent rules will be applied to it. City officials may
conclude that existing rules, such as setbacks from streams or the
tree-protection ordinance, provide sufficient habitat protection in a
given area, she said.

Many landowners have known about the inventory project for a couple of
years. But newer residents, including Cook, had no clue the city was
eyeing their lots.

Now he's full of questions. Will the city keep him from removing trees on
his lot? Or using a leaf blower because of the noise? Or doing more
remodeling someday?

"If the city enforces more stringent protections, such as noise abatement
or controlling the plants I can or can't plant in my yard, I would find
that a reasonable thing to do but perhaps hard to live with," he said.

Cook also worries that being in a significant natural resource area might
inflate his property value and raise his taxes.

Business and land use watchdog groups are monitoring the city's progress
as well.

The inventory looks fairly complete, said Kevin Matthews, co-chairman of
the group Friends of Eugene. His biggest complaint is that the city has
moved too slowly in piecing it together.

The inventory is close to where it was in 2001, he said, while native
habitat continues to succumb to development all over the city.

"We're absolutely losing resources," Matthews said. "Each time this
inventory comes up, the major changes to it are removing resources no
longer available because they have been developed in a haphazard way."

The inventory is a moving target -- or a shrinking one. As residential
lots have been developed in the south hills, for example, the city has
pulled them off the list of lands that could receive greater protections.

The inventory also could have implications for how the city grows, others
point out. It could further limit where new housing can go in, said Roxie
Cuellar, director of government affairs for the Home Builders Association
of Lane County.

"Our biggest concern is that there is so much acreage that is included in
the inventory," Cuellar said. "Down the road what type of additional
regulations does the city feel it needs to impose in terms of additional
protections as far as development is concerned?"

Terry Connolly, director of government affairs for the Eugene Area
Chamber of Commerce, has similar concerns about the potential loss of
developable commercial and industrial lands. And individual property
owners remain in the dark about exactly what will be allowed on their
lots in the future, Connolly said.

The planning commission will vote on the inventory early next year and
send it to the City Council for final approval.

The council also will hold a public hearing.

Springfield is on a similar track and expects to schedule hearings on its
proposed inventory early next year.

Lane County opted for a different approach for unincorporated lands in
the metro area. The county will review development projects in
significant habitat areas on a case-by-case basis.


* What: Eugene Planning Commission hearing on proposed inventory of
riparian and upland wildlife habitat resources in the city and urban
growth boundary.

* When: 6 p.m. Dec. 17

* Where: Council Chamber, City Hall, 777 Pearl St., Eugene

* For more information: Ann Siegenthaler, 682-5451 or

-- Eugene Planning Division

| Rob Zako |
| 1280-B East 28th Ave., Eugene, OR 97403-1616 |
| (541) 343-5201 (voice) |
| (541) 683-5828 (fax) |


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