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Resident appeals forest rezoning.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran June 18, 2007): Tom Lininger served as a Lane County Commissioner for eight months before resigning his post to take a faculty position at the University of Oregon Law School. A story on Page D1, June 15, erroneously said he resigned before taking office.

Opponents are fighting a prominent environmentalist's plan to build a house on forestland southwest of Eugene, saying the recent approval of the project sets a dangerous precedent for the depletion of an important natural resource.

Resident Hal Hermanson of the Peaceful Valley area has appealed the approval granted to Tom Lininger, a former board member with Oregon Wild, to rezone 80 acres of forest land to allow for a house. More than 50 neighbors oppose the rezoning, Hermanson said.

Lininger, a former Lane County commissioner-elect who stepped down before taking office, won approval earlier this month to rezone land from prime forestland to impacted forestland.

But the hearings official erroneously approved the project, said Anne Davies, Hermanson's attorney, in an appeal filed this week. That's because Lininger divided the land into parcels in an effort to avoid rules that prohibit housing there, the appeal said.

"The applicant obtained a partition and then transferred the resulting parcels into separate ownerships in order to circumvent the provisions of the code that are designed to preserve large tracts of forestland for forest management," Davies said in the appeal.

Hearings Official Gary Darnielle should have considered other large parcels in the area - not simply those abutting the land in question - in determining whether rezoning is appropriate, Davies said.

Davies rejected the opinion that the parcel should be rezoned to the same classification as land surrounding it, arguing that could lead to rezoning large tracts of prime forest land "at the drop of a hat" merely because they're next to tracts that have been zoned as impacted forest land.

"The approval would set a dangerous precedent for future applicants who may or may not have the best interests of the land and the surrounding community in mind," Davies wrote.

Lininger could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He has said that he and his family want to live on the land in part so that he can use sensitive but high-maintenance forestry methods such as mulch mats, which kill competing vegetation around trees without herbicides.

Springfield-based Rosboro Timber Co. owned the land and was clear-cutting it in 2004 when neighbors objected to aerial spraying of herbicides, Lininger said. He paid $488,000 in 2005 to buy 242 acres, then divided the land into three 80-acre parcels.

Darnielle has a week to consider the appeal and affirm, reverse or modify his decision. If he affirms his decision, the county board could consider the appeal in July; if he changes his decision, another appeal period would begin.

Pending appeals at the local level, the state Land Use Board of Appeals could decide the matter.
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Title Annotation:Government; Former commissioner-elect Tom Lininger won approval to build a house on the land
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 15, 2007
Words:488
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