Developers Renew Assault on the Metolius

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Almost exactly one year ago, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law a bill protecting the Metolius Basin from destination resorts and other intensive development.

Don’t look now, but … they’re back.

A week ago, developers floated a proposal to build 15 “fishing accommodations” on the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook, inside the Area of Critical Statewide Concern created as a buffer around the Metolius.

These “fishing accommodations” are not going to be little tents or one-room shacks – they’re going to be privately owned, detached units of up to 1,600 square feet each.

In other words, houses.

According to Erik Kancler, executive director of Central Oregon LandWatch, there already are “eight camp trailers, 11 docks, five decks, retaining walls, and myriad other uses” on the site, most of which will be grandfathered in if the "fishing accommodations" are okayed.

Not only would the project be a foot in the door for further development inside the buffer zone, but it could have important statewide implications as well, Kancler writes in a post on the Blue Oregon site:

“The statewide issue is that thus far, ‘fishing accommodations’ (which are a conditional use allowed in forest zones within a quarter-mile of Class 1 waters) have been understood to be single ‘guest rooms’ to be used ‘for sleeping purposes.’ To our knowledge, no one’s ever attempted to call privately owned detached dwellings with kitchens, bathrooms, etc. ‘guest rooms.’

“If allowed to stand, such a precedent could ultimately lead to hundreds, perhaps thousands of new residences along the Metolius and other Class 1 rivers throughout the state, such as the Umpqua, the McKenzie, the John Day, or the Illinois.”

Jefferson County’s planning staff has recommended that the project be approved, with the stipulation that none of the “fishing accommodations” can be bigger than 850 square feet and none can be built in a riparian area. The county planning commission has to make a decision next, and the county commission after that.

“I’ve been amazed at the lengths that local elected officials will go through to stay out of the way of landowners or to actively facilitate developments that seem to clearly disregard the letter and intent of the law, the public interest, or the concerns of neighbors,” Kancler writes. “Should Jefferson County ultimately approve this development, it would be among the worst cases of ‘accommodation’ I’ve seen yet.”


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