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Sequential park measure has problems.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Roxie Cuellar For The Register-Guard

The Home Builders Association of Lane County has taken a rare stand - we oppose Measure 20-110, the Eugene park bond proposal. Rare, because we recognize the value of parks. Rare, because we usually support investments in our communities. We have endorsed the Eugene library levy, the Springfield public safety and fire levies, and the Springfield and Bethel school districts' measures. We know that owning a home requires a continuous financial commitment in upkeep, and we believe that same commitment is necessary to the infrastructure of our communities. Because we have taken this rare step to oppose the park bond measure, we would like to explain our reasons.

This $25 million bond measure is one of a proposed sequence. Eugene voters passed a park bond measure in 1998 that residents will pay for until 2022. Should this measure pass, a third park bond measure is planned in five or six years, with a fourth to follow. The sequence is necessary because this bond measure places a heavy emphasis on land acquisition rather than recreation.

For example, the 2006 bond measure again contains money to purchase land for a Santa Clara community park; however, it provides no money to develop it. Developing the park requires that voters support the subsequent third and fourth bond measures. The same is true for the neighborhood parks. Measure 20-110 provides money to buy land for some parks, but no money to develop them.

Our members are also concerned that the city has limited funds to maintain its current parks. Without adequate maintenance, vacant park lands within neighborhoods often become neighborhood blights. Our members are further concerned about the fiscal impacts of a comprehensive park plan that relies on the passage of four park bond measures to actually bring the parks to fruition when the city cannot currently maintain its streets and is proposing a new city hall.

Rather than money for park development, the measure provides funds for unlikely land acquisitions. For example, the city proposes the purchase of three sites on the Willamette River north of Belt Line Road. The map showing park bond projects states that it is not site specific; however, in this instance, all three proposed park sites are outside the urban growth boundary, and there are only five property owners. Four parcels are owned by gravel companies that are engaged in gravel extraction. The remaining parcel is River Ridge Golf Course.

The owners of at least two of those companies have told Eugene officials that their business activities would be incompatible with a bicycle path running past or through them. Yet, in the proposed sequence of park bond measures, acquiring park land through gravel mining operations is given a higher priority than developing neighborhood parks.

The Home Builders Association is also concerned that acquiring land for the larger projects will affect the residential land supply. We recently won a state Land Use Board of Appeals decision in which the Eugene Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan was remanded back to the city. In that decision, LUBA expressed skepticism that Eugene could acquire significant park land without first examining the impact on the land supply.

I have been told by park proponents that there should not be an impact of the land supply because the city intends to purchase the majority of the proposed park acreage in the county outside the UGB. That poses its own problems. Wastewater lines cannot be extended to serve land beyond the UGB. If the Santa Clara community park land is acquired outside the UGB as the city currently proposes, it could not be developed as a community park until the UGB is expanded to accommodate it.

There are good and needed projects in the bond measure. However, the Home Builders Association believes the proposal should be sent back to the drawing board in hopes that a better plan will emerge.

Roxie Cuellar is director of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Lane County.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 10, 2006
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