It is astonishing that 1000 Friends of Oregon is so disingenuous as to argue that the Helvetia area should be ejected from the “urban reserve” designation because it is prime farmland and the Sunset Highway is a natural barrier to urbanization. A review of topographical and soils maps reveals that the Helvetia area is far less suitable for farming than any other areas of Washington County adjacent to Hillsboro and is not irrigated.

More important, much of the area already has been parceled into rural, residential yuppie estates. It is more suitable for agri-tainment than agriculture. Highway 26 is critical transportation infrastructure that enables urbanization, so the argument that the highway is a natural barrier to urbanization is as inane and insane as arguing that MAX light-rail tracks are a natural barrier to urbanization.

Perhaps more offensive than 1000 Friends of Oregon’s irrational legal arguments is the hypocrisy of the organization and its avowed supporters. When the urban growth boundary was expanded in 2002, Metro adopted a regional approach and attempted to focus urban development on areas poorly suited for farming or forestry because of topography, poor soils, lack of irrigation and parcelization. The result was pandemonium, yet 1000 Friends of Oregon made no effort to support Metro for honoring the original intent of Oregon’s land-use planning laws.

Nowhere has the hypocrisy of 1000 Friends of Oregon been more evident than with North Bethany and Area 93 in Bonny Slope. Both areas are obviously poorly suited for farming and forestry by any objective criteria, and North Bethany’s viability as a farming community was severely compromised by the construction of the Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus in the 1970s. Area 93 in Bonny Slope was absolutely unsuitable for farming and had been a rural residential community for most of a century.

Rather than applaud Metro for designating these areas for urbanization as an alternative to farmland, the same people who have been objecting to designating Helvetia as urban reserve continue to be apoplectic about North Bethany and Area 93. The same cadre of vociferous citizens who applaud the recent decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals aggressively intervened in the concept planning of North Bethany to mandate far less than optimal decisions that have massively magnified the costs for developers as well as county taxpayers.

Now that the infamous “governance issue” with Area 93 that was allegedly so intractable has been resolved by revising the boundary between Washington County and Multnomah County, 1000 Friends of Oregon’s minions continue to obstruct urbanization. Their most recent strategy is to impose extraordinary, onerous, confiscatory and vindictive system development charges on Area 93 landowners to fund a massively expensive and unneeded major realignment of Saltzman Road. The obvious conflicts of interest of the three landowners appointed to dominate a secretive “Saltzman Solutions” group are ignored.

While this protracted obstructionism has discredited 1000 Friends of Oregon, it also has effectively eliminated the option of urbanizing rural residential areas as an alternative to farmland. After witnessing the North Bethany and Area 93 debacles, no one in their right mind who owns the type of rural residential land that should have priority for development would want to be brought into the urban growth boundary. The only people who would be motivated to bring their land into the urban growth boundary are speculators who have purchased or optioned large tracts of prime farmland.

By allowing its minions to sabotage and obstruct efforts to urbanize the types of exception lands that should have priority for urbanization, 1000 Friends of Oregon have forever forfeited any credibility to claim they are the guardians of Oregon’s farm and forest lands, rather than mere lobbyists for special interest groups that have a vested interest in limiting the supply of buildable land.

Henry Richmond and Tom McCall must be spinning in their graves.

James Crawford is a farmer who lives in Yamhill.

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