Thursday, January 7, 2016

Deschutes County Commissioners Hold Meeting in La Pine about the Goal 11 Exception:

Goal 11 Exception Process 
for Southern Deschutes County
Board of County Commissioners Public Hearing 
at LPHS Auditorium
in La Pine, Oregon on January 6, 2016

by Kathy Matthews, of “In the News”, La Pine, Oregon:

Deschutes County Commissioners Tammy Baney, Al Unger and Tony DeBone

January 28, 2015:  UPDATE - The Exception Rule has passed.  Here is the link to The Bulletin article about the details. "Exception Rule Allowing Sewers Moves Forward"
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners received public input on a proposed exception to state land use requirements that would allow, but not require, sewer systems in rural areas outside of La Pine.  The land-use rule in this instance is Goal 11 and that is the reason for calling the process “Goal 11 Exception”.

This meeting was not about annexing neighborhoods into the city, nor about installing large pipe sewer systems.

The number of people at the meeting was very low.  Including county and state officials there were around 20 people in attendance.  Commissioners Tammy Baney, Al Unger and Tony DeBone were on the panel. This made it easy to exchange information, ask and answer questions and allowed ample time for everybody who wanted to to talk.

State land-use requirements normally prohibit new or expanded sewer systems in rural areas. However, exceptions are allowed when they help to protect public health.  In this instance, allowing property owners the option of connecting to small community cluster sewer systems will help to protect groundwater in southern Deschutes County.  It would be an alternative to needing to use the more expensive ATT systems.

If the exception to Goal 11 is ultimately passed, it will also allow some South County residents to build homes on lots that they own, but are currently unable to use due to the size of their lot and existing septic rules.

County Planner Peter Russell         

Some of the concerns expressed had to do with the wording of the Goal 11 Exception.  The potential for “health-hazard terminology” was strongly objected to by several people. Nobody wanted it to sound like the La Pine area had a problem with good groundwater, because we do have really good water. 

There seemed to be a lot of distrust from community members due to past dealings with Deschutes County and DEQ resulting from the studies done several years ago that required people to put in ATT systems instead of standard and sand filter systems.  It also seemed that community members were concerned that they would eventually be required to hook up to a large sewer system like the City of La Pine has.  They were reassured that was not the intent at all, and that in fact that wasn’t even what this meeting nor Goal 11 Exception was about.

One thing that was addressed was that property owners would not be able to “up-zone” and change land that is zoned for a single family dwelling to commercial. 

On a side note, it was brought up that the Orenco company, though they provide quality products, have too much influence over DEQ and the state of Oregon.  They are on the board of who approves acceptable systems for southern Deschutes County and are the only ones on the list who can provide systems for this area.  There is no competition, and that raises the prices of local septic systems.

Several people expressed concerns over how groundwater monitoring was done in Deschutes County.  It was brought up that because a few people may have bad wells due to their well sitting in the middle of a horse corral didn’t make it a basin-wide issue. Questions were asked about the effect of farming residue and golf course fertilizer run-off near the Little Deschutes River.  The suggestion was made that instead of DEQ doing the monitoring, that OSU would be allowed to do it as a third party.  OSU is very interested in becoming involved, but there is an issue of funding.

A question of cost was addressed.  Though the homeowners who choose to take advantage of a small cluster system would be footing the bill, the county is looking into grants and low-cost loans and funding services to help people install these types of systems if they wanted to.  At this point, it would really only initially apply to about 100 property owners in OWWI, who are not even able to build houses on their property.

One individual who spoke wants all of this put on the ballot and to the let people vote on it.  He also said that the Oregon Health Authority hasn’t been brought in on all of this and he is afraid that they would come and change the intention of the exception.  He felt that this was being rushed along, and that “the devil is in the details and this in a precedent setting event , and should not be addressed with a broad-stroke approach.”

Another person said that the Goal 11 Exception is overreaching and unwise, and that it draws reckless media attention, and that it could result in mandatory sewers in So. County.  She didn’t feel as if the data was credible and that it is not clear cut.  She wanted a research project set up that includes rigorous testing performed by OSU.

It was brought up by La Pine’s mayor that the Goal 11 Exception is really “just a tool to determine in future and is part of land-use laws and processes.”

Commissioner Baney stated that these meetings were for the community to tell the commissioners their concerns, and that the plan became refined each time there was a meeting.  She believes that everything should be able to be developed fairly within the law.

The meeting ended after it was agreed that the oral record is now closed.  The written record will be open for two weeks, until January 20, 2016.  At the next regularly scheduled Deschutes County Commissioners meeting on January 27th at 10:00, deliberation will begin to see if the Goal 11 Exception will be approved or not.

For questions about the Goal 11 Exception, please contact Peter Russell, Deschtues County Senior Transportation Planner at 541-383-6718 or Bob Bagett at DEQ at 541-278-4609.

Also, info from October's meeting has links to a lot more important information, if you want to check it out here: October 2015 Meeting at SHARC

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