Standing up for what is right in Oregon City
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, if you stand up for something, you present yourself for ridicule or compliments. So it is when you stand up for a community fighting for "responsible" land-use decisions.
In my six years as a member of the Planning Commission, appointed by Mayor Doug Neeley and re-appointed by Mayor Dan Holladay, I believe I have stood up for our community and what is right, while at the same time following city codes.
Beginning 15 years ago, Kent Ziegler has tried to get property that he owned, at the time, voted into the city. He lost multiple times, after trying various failed tactics to convince the voters of the need for this property. "Three times and you're out" does not apply here. His attempts went down 67 percent, 56 percent and finally 62 percent voting no. The citizens could see the exploitation.
In a recent editorial, Ziegler would like you to believe that it is all about me, and that I had to recuse myself during the recent hearings on the Park Place Concept Plan area. I never had to recuse myself from the process; I chose to recuse myself so I could speak for the citizens in the Park Place neighborhood who were against this debacle. Ziegler speaks on behalf of the Oregon City Business Alliance (OCBA), which I have renamed Our Cash Buys Anything, but ironically Ziegler doesn't even live in Oregon City.
Ziegler touts all the good things that have happened here but can he show any way in which his organization had any effect on the outcome of those projects? Can Ziegler explain all the Oregon Land Use Board appeals against city decisions? Can Ziegler explain all the lawsuits that this city has had to settle? How about the settlement for our previous city manager, where not only did the city have to pay his salary, but also our attorney fees as well as the previous city manager's attorney fees? Ziegler would like us to think that it is all lollipops and rainbows.
So let's dive into the main thrust of Ziegler's tirade in which he wavered off course and fabricated a fictional story that it was all about my backyard. Certainly I have been concerned about what would happen beyond me, and most definitely I have fought vociferously against the development, to the point that — three times on the City Hall steps — Ziegler offered to "assist me" if I would just keep quiet.
But Ziegler went beyond me. There are three homes on Holcomb that were not part of the annexation. I have seen the copy of the $5,000 check offered to residents if they would just back off and not fight the pending annexation. All those residents refused the bribes.
Ziegler would have you believe that this was all about my backyard. Anyone who has read this newspaper — or listened to my testimony before various commissions — realizes that my fight on behalf of Park Place has many factors. If this proposal was in the McLoughlin or Canemah neighborhoods, people would understand the historical significance of the area. So it is with Park Place, the actual end of the Oregon Trail. Park Place street signs have toppers designating the historical significance. There are large signs along Holcomb presenting the history of this area. The actual trail path is protected from any more construction. This kind of massive annexation, the largest in Oregon City history, will forever change the look and atmosphere of this historically significant area.
Beyond historical arguments, there is the infrastructure impact. Opening stub roads into existing neighborhoods could mean that construction trucks would be coming through streets where children play, and walk to and from school. Opening those roads would have a significant impact on the safety of the neighborhoods. Additionally, the concept plan calls for 1,400 homes in the entire area, along with many new developments that will add an incredible number of vehicles to the area.
There were no plans to push the new road all the way down from Holcomb to Redland until later. That meant that all the traffic would end up clogging up a very dangerously narrow, two-lane Holcomb Boulevard, with deep valleys and ditches on either side. Imagine all that new traffic on an already choked Redland Road. Imagine the bottleneck at Redland and Holcomb, or where they meet Highway 213. There are no plans nor money to improve Redland Road until 2035.
Finally let's address Ziegler's claim that all these people with big money are making a difference in our community by building all these needed homes. It is more than obvious that those with money make more money by building and selling more homes, and then they move on to the next open land.
Developers profit and then citizens are left holding the bottomless bag for additional infrastructure costs. System-development charges never really cover all the costs. Yes, any city would like additional homes. But from serving on the Planning Commission — and as the Citizens Involvement Council chair for three years — I have come to realize that our citizens want responsible growth, not rampant growth.
I wish to thank Ziegler for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight with truths and facts. We as a community reject the notion that every piece of land needs to be built on and that the OCBA does all of this out of the goodness of their hearts. Let's get real!
Tom Geil is an Oregon City resident.