Chaos continues unabated in Canemah neighborhood
Even though Canemah is a historic district, the Oregon City Historic Review Board has just approved a six-house complex, which violates too many historic-building codes to list here.
The HRB admitted, this "cottage development will set a precedence in Canemah." Is that really the role of the HRB? To "set a precedence" in a historic district? That is a betrayal of Canemah, and contrary to promises made in Oregon City's section 17.40 of the Historic Building Code to uphold our historic district.
It's difficult to lodge objections to one house, in the time allotted to speak at the HRB. As Friends of Canemah, we were given that same amount of time, to object to numerous building code and style violations, for six houses. HRB Chair Ken Baysinger made it very clear, he would do nothing to allow us any extra time, or allow us to speak at all, if he could prevent it. Violations such as extreme topography changes, close to 85 percent lot coverage, more than one house on a lot, lack of setback from a wetland, 600-to-1110-square-foot-houses, crammed together and stylistically nicknamed, "The A-Frames," "the ski chalet, with mansored roof," with cut-out roofs, sliding-glass doors, skylights, huge windows, dueling designs and rooflines, completely innappropriate for Canemah. The developer was given extra time, so he could call FOC "fear mongers" and "irresponsible" to speak of landslides, even though it's directly under South End Road. HRB repeatedly reminds us they are not concerned with landslide, wetlands or seasonal flooding. FOC has to wonder why there are historic building codes that address those very topics and are being ignored.
It should be the role of the Canemah Neighborhood Association to speak to the HRB through their land-use chair. But, Mr. and Mrs. Baysinger worked very hard to completely replace the CNA Bylaws, telling members they had "a direct order from the mayor" to change their bylaws, removing the land-use chair and giving up the right of land-use appeal, removing votes from members and giving them to a Steering Committee. Mr. and Mrs. Baysinger are on that Steering Committee. If you review the HRB videos, Mrs. Baysinger is the one that keeps whispering in the developer's ear. Mrs. Baysinger is also the CNA representative to the Oregon City Citizen Involvement Committee, not chosen by the CNA, but appointed by the mayor. Hardly constitutional.
Now, dump trucks have been moving dirt and rock out of Canemah, hourly, for 10 days. Do people that live on top of South End Road know it's being excavated down below them? The property is owned by a recent CNA Steering member and very close associate of its key two members. She knows the rules. People from Canemah called the city for several days, asking what was being done and why, with no geo report, no historic review, no permit whatsoever? A large machine, was pounding and breaking the bedrock, drilling through it, then it was loaded into dump trucks and hauled away hourly, for 10 days! I was told by Planning to video this operation and take it to Code Enforcement, for a stop-work order. When I did this, Code Enforcement asked, "Why should we? We don't get the fine." Finally, a site visit was made and a permit was issued to continue. It was determined within that short time, that it was not in a geo-hazard zone and not in a historic district. The operation was called "removal of a rock pile." I guess that's what's confusing. Because when I look at the maps myself, that area at the end of Fourth Avenue is in a historic neighborhood, with a geo-hazard overlay. But, the city and the builder don't see it that way. Maybe other people could take a look at the maps and offer an opinion?
Earlier this month, I looked out my back door, to see my neighbor and John Lewis, director of OC Public Works, measuring and marking my property. Mr. Lewis sprayed a line in my driveway and told me it was now public right-of-way/easement. Mr. Lewis then told me a four-sided, 6-foot fence would be put up by my neighbor, blocking my view of Coffee Creek's waterfall from my house, using the words: "It's his property, he can do whatever he wants."
When I mentioned Historic Codes and Oregon City Code, that forbid this, Mr. Lewis kept repeating, "It's his property, he can do whatever he wants." When I cited surveys at Clackamas County, disputing his measurements, Mr. Lewis said he didn't "have time to look at them." But he has time to commandeer my driveway and place my property boundary up against the side of my house? To advise my neighbor to violate fencing code?
Officers and city employees are to enforce the law, not write it. When the law and city codes are allowed to be bent, stretched and applied with personal bias, it's no longer law. It then becomes a tool to be used for the advantage of some over others, gets very confusing, allows chaos and opens the door to abuse of the system or graft. When a decision is made based on "Who gets the fine" rather than keeping us safe, we've got a real problem. When too few people are making most of the important decisions, especially when they are hand picked to support local potentates, instead of being duly elected, that's not constitutional and this is the result. Our city, county, state and federal government all have the means to ensure our laws are followed. Maybe it's time for the citizens of Oregon City to ask them for some help in doing that?
Patti Webb is a resident of the Canemah neighborhood in Oregon City.