The Future is Now—waivers for land use on Mazama Ranch development Provoke a Discussion of the Changing Complexion of the Smith Rock Area


December 23, 2017

While those for and against the proposed Mazama Ranch Development concentrate on whether or not this single project's approval should be turned down in appeal, there are some other voices focused on the bigger picture.

One of those voices is actually a collective—the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance. In a recent press release they proclaimed their manifesto:

As a united alliance of neighbors, we do not believe enabling a small 1.97 acre (not 2.5 acres) rural lot to support a year-round commercial bed and breakfast and campground with 28+ users, 5 campsites (10 tents total), and 17 parking spaces to be responsible development in accordance with the harmony of our rural neighborhood and the surrounding agricultural area. Furthermore, we believe this type of development on rural lands is not in the best interest of Deschutes County or the State of Oregon and it is not consistent with applicable law and County code. The implications of setting precedence are serious and could result in multiple campgrounds and/or commercial lodging accommodations. This is not speculation - there are records of adjacent properties either listed for sale or attempting to enable dense commercial use.

 Multi Use Agricultural (MUA 10) Lots around the Smith Rock State Park area that can be developed under conditional use permits, like the Mazama Ranch Development   image courtesy of the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance

Multi Use Agricultural (MUA 10) Lots around the Smith Rock State Park area that can be developed under conditional use permits, like the Mazama Ranch Development

image courtesy of the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance

The Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance focuses on precedent, as the current ruling allows setback waivers for the Mazama Ranch MUA 10 property to make up for the small space it's chosen to develop. (MUA 10 refers to Multi Use Agricultural zoning, 10 acres. The property in question got grandfathered in to the county codes for the larger agricultural conditional use permitting for it's 2.5 acre footprint, even though it is not 10 acres.)

TNA goes on to say that "an irresponsible interpretation of Deschutes County Code would invite further overuse in Smith Rock State Park, which is currently in the midst of massive challenges related to overcapacity issues."

While TNA has other points in the code it challenges, they are extremely concerned with future interpretation of MUA 10 to allow for dense commercial use to expand in the area. 

Here's a link to their entire position statement

 Luis Elenes of the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance ponders the future of development around Smith Rock.  Image courtesy of Ethan Vella.

Luis Elenes of the Terrebonne Neighborhood Alliance ponders the future of development around Smith Rock. Image courtesy of Ethan Vella.

Another voice we heard from was not from a group of concerned homeowners, but from a climber who chose to live in Terrebonne, not solely because of Smith Rock. Here's some of what Dana Bartus had to say:

"If it were about just climbing, I would rather be close to Yosemite, or places in Colorado or Utah. But I don’t want to live in those places, I choose to live here for the same reasons the neighbors do. Because we love the magic of this place, we love the solitude and our community."

 Dana Bartus, concerned Smith Rock climber

Dana Bartus, concerned Smith Rock climber

Dana moved to Central Oregon from New Jersey just over 7 years ago from in her words, "the most rapidly developed county within the most rapidly developed state in the United States, Warren County, NJ 1990-2000."

After seeing the transformation there she went on to say: "I don’t know that we could currently have the ability to know what unwanted growth is actually possible if we are not very careful about every decision that is made along the way. Especially when land use ordinances are subject to such drastic change based solely on the good intentions of one non-profit in one single isolated proposal."


So where does the question of land use interpretation go from here for the Smith Rock area? In the case of the Mazama Ranch Appeal that came before the Deschutes County commissioners on December 18, the commissioners ran out of time and scheduled the rebuttal from the Mazamas Foundation for a second meeting on January 3rd, 2018, with a decision in late January.  The commissioners are accepting public comment until January 3, 2018. 


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