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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.22.11





News Briefs: Mining Destroys Scenic Butte | Redistricting Bound for Appeals Court? | Wrong Goal for Goshen? | Survey Sees Green Light for Handy | Blair Remake But No Bike Lanes | Lighten Up

News:

Lethal Hazard

A Wildlife Services trap set for nutria kills a pet dog

News:

UO Independence

Bill has power over president, but not tuition

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

Happening People: Michael Cross

Something Euge!

 


Mining Destroys Scenic Butte

It’s a double-edged sword, says Dexter resident Arlen Marcus. Lane County has issued a notice of violation to the mine operators at Parvin Butte for mining without a site review. But Marcus says rather than stopping the heavy machinery, the devastation of the Dexter landmark has only increased. Neighbors say the near daily destruction starts in the morning and lasts until after dark at the butte surrounded by homes and the rural community of Dexter.

Photo by John Bauguess

The $330 per day fine is “what they’ve decided this is the cost of doing business,” says land use attorney Dan Stotter who represents the Parvin Butte neighbors fighting to stop the mine. “There’s more profit in breaking the law than in paying the fines in a cost-benefit analysis,” he says. Marcus agrees. “It’s like a dime to them,” he says. The fines as of Dec. 20 totaled $4,680.

Kim Metzler, who like Marcus is a member of the steering committee for the effort to save Parvin Butte, says machinery is now removing the top of the butte. Parvin Butte neighbors have taken video and photos showing machinery digging rock, moving it next to a rock crusher on the site, and more recently, loading the rock into McDougal Bros. trucks at the butte. 

The notice was issued to ATR Land, LeeLynn and Wiley Mt., which like Lost Creek Resources, the name on the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) permit, are all companies under the aegis of Norman and Melvin McDougal and Greg Demers. Demers and his brother Jeffrey Demers are involved in the Willamette Water Company (see news brief this issue). 

The site was zoned for gravel mining but has been dormant for at least 50 years, says Marcus. The mine operators have a DOGAMI permit, but according to the notice of violation they were notified twice that a “site review application in conjunction with DOGAMI permit 20-164 was required to continue any mining activity on the property.” The mine has appealed the notice. The appeal written by attorney Larry Gildea argues that the mine does not need a site review because it is 200 feet from exterior boundaries and that Lane County cannot meet its burden of proof. 

A site review allows for the public to have a say on mining operations before the trucks, noise and dust begin in a community.

Lane County’s compliance officer, Jane Burgess, says because an appeal was filed, the next step in the county’s administrative enforcement process is to hold a hearing in front of the Lane County hearings official. 

Gary Lynch, assistant director at DOGAMI, says that the DOGAMI permit rests on whether the land was zoned for gravel mining and DOGAMI would have an issue only if the land use approval was somehow denied. He says the land use decisions made 30 or 40 years ago to allocate resources were good at the time but “don’t measure up well today. Some of our opinions have changed.” 

County Commissioner Rob Handy says the county’s inability to stop the mining despite the community uproar is “very disappointing.” He says, “If the fines are looked at as the cost of doing business then there’s something wrong with that picture.” According to Handy the commissioners could have some discretion in the issue when it comes to the greater public interest, but he doubts the current board majority would choose to weigh in. 

When asked about Parvin Butte, Faye Stewart, the commissioner who represents Dexter, referred the question to county legal counsel. Assistant County Counsel Marc Kardell says the county is attempting to schedule a hearing for Jan. 5: “The hearing, should the county be successful, would both levy fines and compel a review process that the county believes is necessary in this zone.” Fines, he says, are continuing to be assessed.

Stotter says if it can be proved that the mine operators are not just moving rock around on the site, but engaging in commercial activity, the fines can increase to three times as much. He says it was “a crucial turning point in that Lane County has gone on record that there is a violation of law.” Stotter adds that it is rare in his 20 years of practice to see Lane County issuing stop letters and pointing at a mining operation and saying they are violating the law.

“It’s even more rare that the mining company ignores it,” he says. 

According to Stotter one action the neighbors could take is to file a civil suit against the mine.

Stotter says that the mine operators “mistakenly think that my clients, the neighbors, will give up, based on seeing Parvin Butte cut down and destroyed. I think they will see the opposite is true.”

Camilla Mortensen

 

Redistricting Bound for Appeals Court? 

Lane County’s recent redistricting fight will likely go to the Court of Appeals rather than the Oregon Supreme Court, according to plaintiffs’ attorney David Force, but, he says, “either way it could be too late to get this issue to the voters.”

Delaying the appeals process is the fact that Circuit Court Judge Charles Carlson “did not sign the judgment dismissing our petition for writ of mandamus until sometime this past Friday, and as of this morning (Dec. 20) he has not yet ‘entered’ the judgment in the Judgment Register,” says Force. “No appeal can be filed until the judgment has been entered.”

The plaintiffs are intent on blocking what they call gerrymandered redistricting by the Tea Party majority on the county Commission. Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson voted against the redistricting plan Oct. 26, but lost to the conservative majority of Sid Leiken, Jay Bozievich and Faye Stewart. A citizen group organized to put the decision on the ballot, but the county administration and elections division said redistricting is administrative, not legislative, and therefore not subject to a public vote. The citizen group sued Cheryl Betschart, the county clerk in charge of elections, but Betchart’s decision to not allow the petition was upheld by Judge Carlson Dec. 9.

Plaintiff Duncan Rhodes of the Whiteaker Community Council says he is getting a transcript made of the audio file of Carlson’s Dec. 7 hearing on the case in order to create a written record necessary for the filing. 

“I don’t know if the court could reset the clock,” says Rhodes. “It does not seem to be covered in the regulations/law. This means that the county has effectively deprived the voters of any input except in an election. It seems to me that if this ruling stands it means that the county could do whatever it pleases, and refuse to issue the required paperwork for any referendum, thus disenfranchising us all.”

“I agree with Duncan that the consequences of this case are far-reaching,” says Force. “In effect, a majority of commissioners can now prevent referendums on all county legislation.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Dec. 9 that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a complex case involving gerrymandered redistricting in Texas that reportedly benefits Democrats and Latino voters. The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in redistricting, but partisan redistricting has been upheld in the courts.

Ted Taylor

 

Wrong Goal for Goshen?

A recent county vote aimed at jobs is raising concerns it also facilitates a water grab. As part of a goal-setting agenda the Lane County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Dec. 7 on a strategic plan for the next five years. The plan targets property crime, fetal/infant mortality and helping rural businesses. The plan also calls for transforming “existing industrial land in Goshen to support development resulting in jobs that pay no less than 150 percent of the median wage.” All goals are set for completion by 2017. 

Alex Cuyler, intergovernmental relations manager for Lane County, says that Goshen is mostly zoned “rural industrial” now, and that has limits for building sizes, which would not meet the needs of those who would develop industrial sites, “whether that be a campus type industrial or a traditional manufacturing type industrial.” He says, “This planning effort would ultimately result in an urban industrial zone,” which would allow for larger buildings.

The effort to change the zoning in small, rural Goshen was already under way before the commissioners’ vote. Last February the commissioners directed the Land Management Division to initiate a process to seek an exception to Oregon statewide planning requirements to allow “an urban level of employment uses” to develop within Goshen. Presentations at public hearings have featured images of industrial parks, and maps show Goshen as changing from a largely rural area to an industrial corridor. 

Cuyler says Goshen “has great rail access, large blocks of undeveloped land, a state highway immediately adjacent to I-5, all positives.” But he adds, “Lacking is access to the public sewer and water infrastructure, and the current zoning.”

The water issue is a source of concern for many, including for Lane County Planning Commissioner Dennis Sandow. Goshen is home to Willamette Water Company, a quasi-municipal water source that currently supplies water to about 100 residential customers and 60 or so businesses and industries in Goshen. 

According to a December 2009 Water Utility Annual Report, the corporation has two stockholders — Greg Demers and Melvin McDougal. Jeff Demers is the director of operations. 

WWC has a small water right on the McKenzie River of 4 cubic feet per second (cfs) right now, but it wants to increase to taking 22 million gallons a day.

The company used the water demand of an industrial park at the Port of Morrow, near Boardman, in its analysis to show how much water industrial and commercial users might need in its efforts to persuade the Oregon Water Resources Department it should be given a larger water right. WaterWatch of Oregon has contested the WWC claim that it needs the water, saying there is not substantial evidence to support that 22 million gallons a day are needed or could be beneficially used.

Sandow says of the decision to develop industrial land in Goshen: “The concern I would have is I think it would just go to substantiate Willamette Water Company’s claim.”

Commissioner Rob Handy says he, too, has concerns over the Goshen plan, but voted with the board majority on the goals because he didn’t want to see valuable goals such as improving infant mortality go by the wayside. Commissioner Faye Stewart, whose district encompasses Goshen, did not return a request for comment. 

 Cuyler says at public hearings on the issue, “The staff I spoke to sensed a mixture of curiosity and skepticism” from Goshen residents. — Camilla Mortensen

Survey Sees Green Light for Handy

A poll done by Washington, D.C.-based Lake Research Partners shows when it comes to the next election Commissioner Rob Handy “is the frontrunner in a race that would be challenging but surely winnable.”

The survey says there were concerns that the “toxic political environment” created by allegations of open meetings violations had dimmed Handy’s chances for re-election but “the data from our survey paint a different picture” and “voters continue to support him by huge margins over the relatively unknown Mike Clark.”

City Councilor Pat Farr has also thrown his hat into the ring against Handy in the newly and controversially redrawn district. In a post on the Forum Lane blog that he frequently writes for, Farr says he will work on bringing jobs to Lane County. 

The survey says that across all the precincts surveyed there was a solid 2-1 ratio of voters with a favorable impression of Handy (35 percent) versus 16 percent with an unfavorable impression. “These solid favorability ratings reveal that to the extent voters are aware of the lawsuit and related issues, they view the matter as ‘insider baseball’ that doesn’t significantly impact their feelings about Rob,” the survey says.

The Lake Research Partners document concludes, “Given a strong, well-funded campaign that helps Handy target his likely supporters, drive turnout among them and ensure they vote on the down-ballot race for county commissioners, he is in an excellent position to be re-elected in 2012.”

Handy says the survey confirms the anecdotal stories and his gut feeling that support from his constituents remained strong or even grew because he is out in the community so much. — Camilla Mortensen

 

Blair Remake But No Bike Lanes

The city of Eugene plans to “transform” bustling Blair Boulevard in the Whiteaker neighborhood with a $2.2 million project that will repave the road and widen sidewalks but not add bike lanes.

Instead of bike lanes, the city will use controversial “sharrow” road paint meant to encourage cyclists to bike along with fast-moving car and truck traffic, according to a funding application sent to the state. 

The application cites Census numbers indicating that 20 percent of trips in the neighborhood are by bike and 11 percent by walking. The 30 percent poverty rate in the neighborhood makes people especially dependent on biking and walking, it says.

The city has favored sharrows over bike lanes in recent projects because they are cheap and prioritize car parking and driving speed above the safety of people on bicycles. The city recently removed a bike lane leading into the UO on 13th and installed sharrows to make room for car parking, and installed sharrows near Willamette and 29th after arguing that a bike lane would slow car traffic.

But the grant application says that the sharrows will represent a bike-friendly improvement over the current situation in the Blair/Van Buren corridor which now has no bike amenities. “Many bicyclists are not comfortable riding on these streets. Prominent shared-lane markings and wayfinding signs will highlight this cycling corridor and alert motorists that bicyclists will be sharing the road and help bicyclists position themselves and feel more comfortable on the roadway,” the application states.

The plan states that the sharrows will attract more bicyclists to reduce pollution and global warming. But local cyclists have argued that separated bike lanes and cycletracks are far more effective in attracting the people who would bike but fear getting hit by cars.

The city is applying for an $843,000 grant from the state. The city plans to combine that money with $1.2 million in street preservation bond funds plus $96,000 in systems development fees to repave the street and add other amenities.

The application lists $136,000 for bikeway elements and $390,000 for walkway elements out of the $2.2 million. The city targets completion of the project by Oct. 31, 2013.

For pedestrians, the plan includes wider sidewalks, improved crossings, curb extensions, elimination of unused driveways, pedestrian signals, street trees, streetlights and wheelchair ramps. 

The grant doesn’t say any car parking will be removed along the street, but it does say the city will add on-street bike corral parking. 

Blair/Van Buren provides an important link to the riverfront bikeway system and planned EmX stops on 6th and 7th and is “bustling” with new businesses, according to the grant application. “There is stronger potential for more entrepreneurial small business energy in this corridor than anywhere else in the city,” the city states.  — Alan Pittman

 

Lighten Up

by Rafael Aldave

An investigation found that County Commissioner Handy’s body language and facial expressions at board meetings were not retaliatory behavior aimed at County Administrator Liane Richardson. Although no other explanation was offered for Handy’s behavior, possible causes include Four-Alarm Chili and tight shorts.

 

 

 

 

SLANT

SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor at eugeneweekly dot com

 

 

 

 

MICHAEL CROSS

A graduate of Pleasant Hill schools, Michael Cross studied exercise science at the UO, then spent a couple of years working in the UC San Diego orthopedics department’s exercise program for seniors. “We used exercise as a preventative tool,” he says. “When we get them into better shape, they live longer autonomously and don’t develop diseases.” Returning to the UO for a master’s in human physiology, Cross designed an interactive web-based exercise curriculum for adult learners as his degree project. “I was teaching exercise physiology and physical education at the UO and LCC,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to teach, especially with adults.” Early in 2011, Cross saw an ad, interviewed and became the new program coordinator for the Eugene office of the Alzheimer’s Association, Oregon Chapter. “Every other employee is in Portland,” he says. “I take care of educational programs and outreach in Lane, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties.” All classes, support groups, and referrals are free, and half of the funds raised by the association go to Alzheimer’s research. Learn more at alz.org/oregon. Cross is also an avid abstract artist. His painting seen in the photo suggests the brain tangles of Alzheimer’s. See more artwork at michaelcrossart.blogspot.com.