Clackamas County Hearings Officer Fred Wilson wrote a letter dated Feb. 9 stating that "there is no good reason to reopen the record" on a developer's proposed zone change in Jennings Lodge.
In 2015, Wilson rejected Lennar Northwest's application for a zoning change, on the basis of preserving neighborhood character, after dozens of hours of testimony from concerned residents of the unincorporated area. Wilson's decision to not reopen the record will prevent the neighbors from providing additional testimony, either during a hearing or in writing.
Karen Bjorklund, chair of the Jennings Lodge Community Planning Organization, said keeping the record closed seems like it's going in the opposite direction from the Oregon's statewide planning program to ensure "the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process."
"The proposed re-zoning and destruction of 326 old growth trees for a 72-lot subdivision has been the largest public involvement issue our community has ever had; it has galvanized hundreds of people, who have participated in community activities and the hearings process," Bjorklund said. "People in our community have told us they feel the decision to not allow any comment from the public now undermines citizen involvement, especially on a land-use application of such great importance to the community."
Lennar appealed the 2015 zone-change application decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. In August the Oregon Court of Appeals sided with LUBA in saying that a 72-home Jennings Lodge development will have to go back to Clackamas County, a decision that will limit the ability of a hearings officer to deny the development again. Oregon law stipulates that Wilson will have 90 days, or until May, to make another decision on the proposed zone change.
Kris Balle of Friends of Jennings Lodge said that the advocacy group asked that Wilson allow more testimony and a reopening of the record, because it has been two years and aspects of the application have changed. Friends of Jennings Lodge formed to obtain legal help shortly after the community heard about the proposed development of the 16.7-acre parcel. Friends of Jennings Lodge's attorney's request to the hearings officer was sent to the county's Planning Department director to be forwarded to the Hearings Officer. The county's planning director denied the request and refused to deliver the letter from the Friends of Jennings Lodge attorney.
"We have watched and petitioned while our requests for changes in the process and more consideration from the county regarding the impact this huge development is going to have on our well established historic neighborhood have been ignored or denied," Balle said.
Meanwhile, the state of Oregon stepped into the controversy over cutting down 326 trees to build a housing subdivision in Jennings Lodge, saying that the site of the former evangelical compound could contain the buried remains of Native Americans ("Lennar Northwest to review proposed subdevelopment in Jennings Lodge for native artifacts," November 2016).