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Envision Eugene... or Appreciate Eugene?

by Scott Rohter, April 2012

“Instead of envisioning Eugene the way that it isn’t, I think we should just enjoy Eugene the way that it is.”

Instead of Envision Eugene which is the City’s long range plan for the future, I think we should appreciate Eugene just the way that it is... small. I think Eugene needs a different plan for the future, one that values the quality of life over the size of its population. I'll call it “Appreciate Eugene.” Instead of envisioning Eugene the way that it isn’t, why don't we just appreciate Eugene the way that it is. I would like everyone living here to know what a wonderful place this already is. I want them to realize just how much better Eugene is than so many other places in the country. We should all love our little City just the way that it is... little rather than trying to turn it into something that it isn't. Instead of trying to grow our little town we should just appreciate it the way that it is.  Something that is already good hardly needs to be re-invented. If it isn’t broken then it doesn't need to be fixed.

The Mayor and the City Council should stop following in somebody else’s footsteps and stop using someplace else’s model and trying to impose it on Eugene. The land planning and development departments, and the various appointed and elected members who serve on the Planning Commission are misguided in their efforts. 

There are about fifteen to twenty of these meddlesome individuals who are all mapping out the City’s future right down to the most minute detail. These pencil necked geeks report to an executive Planning and Development Director, Sara Medary who reports to Jon Ruiz the City Manager. Mr. Ruiz answers directly to the Eugene City Council. Most of these meddlesome planners are busy with the business of trying to accommodate and direct all of the City's growth and development that they can by mapping out areas around the City which have been targeted for expansion based upon who is or who is not in political favor at the moment. There is no choice but for the City to grow. That has already been determined on by the members of the Statewide LCDC.

These are the same planners were responsible for the illegal attempt by the City of Eugene during the 1990s to force people living outside of the City limits to hook up to the Eugene Municipal Sewer System. Along with the City Council they were responsible for re-writing local ordinances against the advice of their own legal counsel in order to compel non-City residents to comply with their plans for annexation and urban development. Non city residents were forced them to pay a $5000 sewer assessment and hook up to the Eugene Municipal sewer system. These planners were also behind the foreclosure sale of the Neely home at 1600 Horn Lane for the exact amount of this sewer lien which they refused to pay. See my articles: Property Rights Come Under Attack in Oregon by State Constitution, and Oregon House Bill 4111 Reform Bill Passes Legislature.

In a 1998 landmark decision called the City of Eugene v. Nalven, the Oregon Appeals Court ruled that the City of Eugene had no authority to order people living outside of the City limits to hook up to its Municipal Sewer System, nor to pay a $5000 sewer assessment. Eugene twice appealed this decision to the Oregon Supreme Court, butit was twice denied. The Appellate Court decision which ruled that the City of Eugene had broken the law still stands...

In 2011, a piece of legislation which I wrote back in 1995 when the City of Eugene foreclosed on the Neely's house, finally passed the Oregon Legislature. It was signed into law by a unanimous vote of everyone present. It took 16 years for this to happen.

In 2010, a group of local land planners from Eugene and Lane County colluded together once again in an attempt to confiscate private property without just compensation. There was a county-wide effort to confiscate a 200 foot wide strip of land from any property owner who owned land containing a creek or pond, or even a drainage ditch on their property. This was the so called Lane County Overlay Map with its 200 foot setback proposal. Eugene and Lane County land planners dreamed this idea up and collaborated together tion with EWEB, and the State Land Use Board. Luckily for property owners their proposal was finally tabled when over five hundred angry County residents showed up at a meeting of the Lane County Board of Commissioners.

Today there is yet another ongoing battle between the City of Eugene and their land planners and LTD on the one side, and tax paying property owners on the other side who don’t want to give up a portion of their land to accommodate a new designated lane bus system running down 6th and 7th Streets and West 11th Avenue. They have not been allowed to vote on this issue so they have been forced to spend over $100,000 to try to get their voices heard by these policy makers. However the Eugene City Council, The Metropolitan Policy Committee, and Lane Transit District all continue to ignore them.

Finally there is another growth related issue on the table for Eugene and rural Lane County residents. It is the addition of about one-hundred acres of land in West Eugene that is earmarked for residential development (i.e. sidewalks, curbs, streetlights, sewers, subdivisions, and tract homes) along with about four-hundred acres of land that is zoned commercial in Northwest Eugene and is slated for commercial development.

The land will provide more jobs and housing in West Eugene for all of the people who will be moving here as a result of the State mandated growth that is occurring here! This is one of the reasons that the City wants to build the West Eugene EmX. The urban development juggernaut just keeps going...

Why Does The Urban Development Juggernaut Keep Going?

The basic question which is even more fundamental than what kind of development we have, or where and when it will happen is “Does Eugene have to grow?” Do local communities have a say in whether they grow or not? Is there anything that local communities can do to preserve their rural character and identity?

“The only thing that keeps growing forever is cancer.”  - Scott Rohter

Most living organisms reach a certain size, height, and weight, and then they stop growing. They transition from a growing phase to merely sustaining and replenishing themselves lest they grow to be much bigger than they should. People and animals would be hundreds of feet tall and weigh thousands of pounds if they kept growing. The principle of optimum size and development is also true for vibrant, healthy cities and economies as well as the people who live in them. There is no reason that healthy cities and economies have to keep growing. It's pure nonsense.

There is no physical law or scientific rationale that maintains that in order for cities or economies to remain healthy they most deep growing! At a certain point in their development everything transitions from a growing phase, to just sustaining and replenishing themselves. The only thing that keeps on growing forever is cancer. I believe that the people in Oregon's local communities should have the primary role in determining their future, but that is not how the system currently works here in Oregon. Senate Bill 100 has assured us of that. It is the sacred cow that governs how all of our land use decisions are made. Local control over land use goes against the basic principle of Senate Bill 100.

I am told that my community doesn’t have any choice in determining whether we grow or we don't grow. That decision has already been made for us by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. We have to grow! We don't have a voice in determining our future. We don’t really have a voice at all when it comes to land use decisions that affect our lives. That is because the members of the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) who are appointed by the Governor make all those decisions for us. They each serve terms of four years and they can be dismissed at any time by the Governor for any cause. So basically one man is in control of all of the major land use decisions in our State. Does it seem like a good idea to concentrate so much power in the hands of one individual?

The seven members of the LCDC appointed by the Governor interpret the laws regarding land use pretty much the way the Governor wants them to. If they don’t see eye to eye with the Governor they are usually dismissed. They interpret the laws regarding land use exactly the way the Governor wants them to or else. There is virtually no chances of an appeal of their decisions to a higher authority. The Judges are also appointed by the Governor. The legislature has given the LCDC basically unlimited authority over all land use decisions in the State. Every city is required to maintain a twenty year supply of land for future development and each city must comply this requirement…

Every city in Oregon must provide for future development whether they like it or not... whether they want it or not.  When all of the new people start moving here, the results are always the same. We lose the rural character of our small communities. The increase in population brings more crime, more traffic congestion, the need for more jobs, more pollution, higher prices, and a lower quality of life for everybody. More crime brings more laws, more judges to enforce the laws, more cops, more jails to imprison those who break the laws, and all of this means less freedom for everyone else. I don’t want to see this happen to Eugene. I hope we wake up before it is too late. We need to stop growing! We need to appreciate Eugene the way that it is.

"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter

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