Throughout the years, I have simply asked the County and past commissioners to follow the law, engage in an open and transparent process and allow Oregon land use laws to guide our decisions.
I have been opposed to the Yamhelas Westsider Trail and for 7 years voted “NO” on all Board actions supporting this divisive taxpayer- funded project.
When I joined the Board, I asked several basic questions:
- Does the County have the necessary State land use approvals to enter into agreements and contract for the building of a recreational trail on Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) land?
- Have all the neighboring landowners (farmers) been advised of plans to build this trail?
- How will the County fund and maintain the trail?
The answers were never clear, yet each Board continued to get the taxpayers deeper into the process without having the necessary land use approvals by the state.
The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has now forced the BOC to stop, step back, and to govern according to Oregon law.
The most recent LUBA decision made it clear that the YWT proposal does not, will not and cannot clear the necessary legal hurdles. It should be clear at this point after so many years and so many legal challenges, that this lengthy and extremely expensive process has been a tremendous waste of limited resources.
It was a burden on the capacity of the County's legal staff and ultimately led to an ongoing fight against constituent farmers.
It wasted County tax revenue and squandered grants from multiple sources for which the County applied, perhaps illegitimately.
It repeatedly wasted the time and resources of those who have pushed back against the prior Boards forcing them to adhere to the law.
This has sadly been a very divisive process.
Recreational trails are wonderful additions to our communities, but not at the expense of farmers, lawful government actions and good stewardship of taxpayer funds.
There are numerous reasons why the trail cannot be approved, including: (1) the trail does not meet the farm impacts test despite three years of county and trail advocate-led efforts to demonstrate otherwise; (2) the Carlton Fire Chief told the county in no uncertain terms that the trail posed significant fire risk of harm to people on and around the trail; and (3) the trail is prohibited under the unequivocal terms of the county code on AF-20 and industrial zoned lands. The trail was never approvable, regardless of what county officials portray On June 18, 2020, ODOT gave the county an ultimatum to either promise a date certain when the trail will be opened to the public or pay the ODOT grant back. The County could not then, as it cannot now, give ODOT a date certain or any date that is even aspirational, for that matter, for project completion because the project was then and is now illegal. The repayment obligations were triggered months (June, 2020) before the new commissioner was in office that allowed the majority vote that ultimately ended the illegal project.
In summation: The proposed Trail was and remains prohibited under the terms of the county code on Agriculture- Forestry (AF20) and industrial zoned lands.
The Trail project suffered 5 County taxpayer-funded rejections by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) with no end in sight.
No one seemed to know what the proposed Trail was going to cost the taxpayers.
The County did not have an accounting of the staff costs expended to date and a budgeted plan for the construction and upkeep of the property.
At a town hall I convened after being in office for over a year, it became apparent that many landowners did not know about the proposed trail.
I voted against funding the Trail project for 7 years for those reasons and more.
For more information please visit: http://thetruthaboutthetrail.com/