Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.12.09

Agent for Developers
Will new county leadership fix LMD?
By Norm Maxwell

It has been 10 years since I was forced to resist a development scheme in the flood plain of the Siuslaw River near Lorane. A developer, closely backed by Lane County’s own Land Management Division, attempted bayonet expansionism at the end of Fire Road. The LMD/developer complex hoped to defeat the existing zoning so that the developer could throw down at least six houses by the Siuslaw where brown water, chest deep on a tall man, has been photographed in recent history. If anybody reading this is hallucinating that our LMD is some sort of impartial referee to land use disputes, let me dissuade you.

 Lane County’s LMD serves, for all practical purposes, as an agent for developers. Since the LMD’s budget is generated by building permit fees, this can not come as a surprise. The LMD/developer complex views existing zoning as an interesting theoretical problem to be overcome. As long as the developer or his “consultant” is writing checks, the “Rule of the Benjamins” ($100 bills) will prevail. The LMD will overcome, by outspending, any objection by little people to a proposed development. The LMD can provide a county attorney to assist the developer on the LMD’s dime. 

 I was forced to take the case of Maxwell v. Lane County (Google it) to Oregon’s Court of Appeals before I was allowed to win. The LMD/developer complex did its very best to run me out of money so that I could not afford any more justice. When the complex prevails, the developer makes millions and the little people challenger gets to pay his own legal fees. When the little guy wins — he gets to pay his legal fees. Any questions?

 Part of the problem was having to shell out a few grand to take the case before Lane County’s Board of Commissioners. This was an expensive waste of time for the little guy challenger. Former Commissioner Anna Morrison would read her paperback while you made your case against a proposed development. Former Commissioner Bobby Green would rest his eyes looking at the ceiling. My commissioner has voted against one development attempt that I am aware of. It was a Measure 37 gambit and the alleged owner of the land no longer owned the property. When you were done wasting your breath, the board would vote 3-2 for the development regardless of the many highly questionable facets you might raise of the proposal. 

 This has hopefully changed along with the membership of the board. Anybody challenging a highly questionable land use ploy here in Lane County must still be fleeced of thousands of dollars for the rare privilege of contesting a rigged LMD land use decision, but at least the Board of County Commissioners is no longer loaded in favor of any lame development scam coming down the pike.

 Now we have another development scheme under way at the headwaters of the Siuslaw, near Lorane in a disused beet field. The field floods. I have no doubt that we have the rare Lane County “migrating tax lot” employed to create lots of the exact specifications desired by the developer. Only in Lane County. 

 Citizens should not have to stand guard against bogus development in rural Lane County. Our Land Management Division should do that for us. Cops bust dope growers and drunk drivers. Why shouldn’t our LMD enforce Oregon land use law as well as Lane County’s own land use policies — supposedly derived from Oregon land use law?


Norm Maxwell of Lorane is, among other things, the retired block captain of the Fire Road Defense League. His essays on politics and the environment, can be found in the EW archives and at