By Raymond Rendleman
The Clackamas Review
Clackamas, OR (June 16, 2010)- Last week’s standing-room-only crowd in the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners hearing room forced a delay in voting on a controversial amendment to the tree ordinance. More than 75 people showed up at the June 8 hearing and at least 66 people signed up to speak, so commissioners rescheduled their vote for June 28 at 6:30 p.m.
After other lengthy meetings this spring, the Clackamas Planning Commission had voted 6 to 1 on April 12 to recommend to the county board that the proposal to increase tree protections in unincorporated areas inside the Urban Growth Boundary not be adopted. Although citizens consistently opposed the ordinance at public meetings, they’ve come from two distinct camps. Some have argued that the protections aren’t strong enough, while others argue that the protections aren’t necessary.
After hearing 44 different testimonies on March 22, the planning commission made a number of suggestions for revisions to the draft, if the commissioners planned to adopt the draft ordinance. “We have some (development standards), but they’re not great-they could certainly stand to be cleared up and enhanced,” said Jennifer Hughes, senior county planner.
To limit its impact the draft ordinance does not apply to developed single-family lots that cannot be divided and “allows owners of rural-zoned properties, and divisible, urban single-family lots, to remove trees before development and without mitigation, provided that they consent to a five-year moratorium on most types of development.” The ordinance would also provide exemption for protecting trees with a diameter of less than eight inches at 4.5 feet high; diseased, hazardous or “nuisance” trees; and trees that are part of an orchard, Christmas harvesting operation or commercial nursery.
Tree advocacy organization Clackamas County Urban Green pushed for a large showing at the hearing in an attempt to retain more urban tree canopy in the wake of urban development, so the majority of testimony pushed stronger protections. The group encouraged many participants to arrive with signs urging new urban tree protections as critical to prevent clear-cutting of trees in advance of development for the sake of wildlife, clean water and public health.
“Maintaining and enhancing tree canopy are essential to watershed health,” said Eric Shawn, an Oak Grove resident who represented the Audubon Society on the Clackamas County Trees Task Force. “Zoning and development ordinances need to be updated and revised in ways that support the watershed action plan.”
Other testimonies accused commissioners of violating freedoms in a quest to generate more bureaucracy and revenue.
“You are taking our property rights away from us,” said Molalla resident Linda Eskridge. “What would be the point of owning property and paying property tax if the government is telling you what to do and fining you for every little thing you do on that land?” Commissioners asked hearing participants to remain quiet and seated during the proceedings after several interruptions.”We understand that there are strong emotions on both sides of this issue-trees have that effect on people,” said Clackamas Chair Lynn Peterson.