Angry homeowners stretched commission meeting with four hours of testimony

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - the meeting was standing room only, and extended to hear further testimony

A standing room only crowd packed into the Ranch Chapel on Crooked River Ranch Thursday evening, Sept. 8. Those who chose to testify told the Jefferson County Planning Commission why they didn't want a new 54-lot development on the Ranch.

Ken Bush lives on Pony Tail Road, adjacent to the property for the proposed development. "Having seen what happened to Idanha and Detroit, Oregon I know there's no way to escape the ranch if fire comes from the south or southwest," said Bush. The proposed development is beside Quail Road, one of the two routes to exit the Ranch. "We don't have enough of an exit program."

Kent Inman lives on Southwest Shad. "It would be a shame to turn this whole ranch into a development. We don't have enough open space as it is." Kyle Koopman said, "If you change the rules you're setting a precedent for others to want to change zoning on their property."

Testimony from a lawyer for Central Oregon Landwatch drew applause. "It is unlikely this will be approved," said Carol Macbeth. "There are thousands of acres already available for rural residential housing. That has to happen before you make an exception." Landwatch believes the property should remain rangeland and be used for agricultural uses such grazing, or cultivating crops such as lavender.

The seven-member planning commission listened quietly to responses. The commission must decide whether to change zoning of 142 acres from rangeland to rural residential. In the 1970s, Bill and Murdoch MacPherson began turning the Crooked River Ranch into rural residential property. The 10,000 acres now has 2,646 privately owned lots.

At that time the MacPherson family reserved 142 acres and now, five decades later, the family wants to develop the property into 54 lots each a minimum of two-acres in size.

Attorney Adam Smith represented the developer about the impracticality of turning the land into agricultural uses. "You won't find a similarly situated parcel in Jefferson County or in the state of Oregon with 140 acres surrounded by a large, rural residential area," argued Smith.

Family members Eric Myhre and Murdock "Murry" MacPherson Jr. did not speak at the meeting. "We have the interest of Crooked River Ranch at heart," said Myhre after the meeting, "where I don't think Central Oregon Landwatch does. They would rather have a chicken ranch on there rather than nice new homes. Which would neighbors rather have?" Oregon Landwatch has entered its opinions into the record with the Jefferson County Planning Commission, but has not filed a lawsuit. Macbeth says the organization's trustees would make that decision.

Technical issues prevented people online from attending the hearing, so the commission voted to extend the hearing to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27 again at the Ranch Chapel so people who live on the Ranch can attend.

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