Christmas trees removed in North Bethany spur neighbor complaints, code … – OregonLive.com
A developer removing trees in rural North Bethany has sparked outcry among neighbors and a land-use quandary among county code enforcement.
The rolling 28-acre property at 7800 Northwest Kaiser Road slopes along the boundary of Washington County. Code enforcement isn’t sure yet whether the clearing of a patch of Christmas trees and possibly other vegetation on the property constitutes a community development code violation, though the office has issued a warning letter.
It’s a technical, murky land-use issue; one that’s stoking lingering, not-so-murky urban-rural tensions about the fate of the surrounding area slated for major development.
The Christmas trees in question were part of North Bethany’s unique natural features buffer but were not in a significant natural resources area. Tree removal in the latter designation requires a county permit but the rules are less well-defined in the natural features buffer, according to county code enforcement officer Tom Harry.
K & R Holdings, which owns an option on the land, says it is clearing trees so the property owner can farm the land. The company, one of two major developers in the coveted North Bethany subarea, does plan to build there eventually, said John O’Neil, Vice President with Metropolitan Land Group, or K & R Holdings. But residential development is “not imminent,” he added.
Harry said he would visit the property Monday and work with staff this week to decide whether it’s a community development code violation. Removing a crop like a Christmas tree is not a violation in the natural features buffer, Harry said. But if the removal is more extensive or verges into a significant natural resources area, it could be a civil violation running up to $5,000 per day.
Along Kaiser Road, several large trees are felled and visible at the front of the property. On Monday morning, a machine was still active on the property.
Neighbor Joe Rayhawk, who owns stables along Abbey Creek, said the large machine that removed Christmas trees has uprooted other vegetation on the property. Rayhawk said he’s worried substantial tree removal will increase erosion in the area and that he does not want to see that land developed.
An attorney handling the property, Dominic Colletta, declined to comment on plans for the land.
Some of Rayhawk’s mistrust has to do with timing, he said. The property is on what county maps deem a “steep slope.” K & R Holdings is currently lobbying the county’s Board of Commissioners to allow the company to build on steep slopes. Under the North Bethany Subarea plan, builders cannot develop along steep slopes, inclines greater than 25 percent.
The planning commission is considering an ordinance that would allow building on steep slopes outside of the natural features buffer. But K & R Holdings is still asking for a broader ordinance that would also remove building restrictions inside the natural features buffer.
Harry said he expected to reach a decision on any violation this week.
– Katherine Driessen