Dept of Land Conservation and Development drops a bomb on Metolius resorts

Carla Axtman

The State Department of Land Conservation and Development today plopped the equivalent of a bomb on efforts to build destination resorts at the Metolius.

At the request of Governor Kulongoski, the department earlier proposed banning destination resorts by designating the Metolius River Basin as "an area of critical statewide concern". This earlier proposal would have blocked the Dutch Pacific Resources resort, which is slated to build in the middle of this region. But the Ponderosa Land & Cattle resort would still have a shot, as part of that resort was set for outside the basin.

Today's updated proposal adds a buffer area around the Basin.

It also offers up an alternative for the land speculators seeking to build destination resorts. The proposal offers up land near Round Butte east of Lake Billy Chinook, where destination resorts aren't currently allowed. The resorts would have to be significantly smaller, however. Dutch Pacific would have to scale down from 180 units + 450 homes to no more than 350 units. Ponderosa's 2500 unit resort could have no more than 650 units.

According to an article in today's Bend Bulletin (which I can't link to because they have a dumbass subscription firewall), the local ag folks aren't very happy about the move to Round Butte:

State law requires a three-mile buffer around farmland, and the plan would require a special exemption from the state for the resort relocation plans to go forward, (DLCD Director Richard)Whitman said.

Mickey Killingsworth, secretary/treasurer of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, said she and her fellow area farmers won’t be receptive.

“That law is to make things better, not to make things worse for agriculture,” she said of the state’s land use protections. “If they’re not outside the three-mile buffer, then it won’t work.”

Whitman said changes to the plan are based on public input received in two public hearings his agency has held on the plan. He said it is also intended to provoke comment at a meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Jefferson County fairgrounds in Madras.

Update (1:40PM): On a party-line vote, former State Representative (and pivotal go-to-guy for Measure 49) Greg Macpherson (D-Lake Oswego) was confirmed by the Oregon Senate today to the State Department of Land Conservation Commission.

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    Given the labor practices I've seen at other destination resorts around the state, I don't think it's good policy to do anything to promote more of them. Unemployment in rural Oregon runs higher than urban Oregon, yet when you visit these destination resorts you find for the most part they are staffed by foreign workers, such as Filipinos (though rarely Latin Americans), brought over to fill the so-called "jobs Americans don't want." Now, more power to anyone immigrating to the U.S. in search of a better life; but I don't think maid services or other unskilled labor was what the H-1B visa program was created for.

    It's pretty easy to figure out why, in rural areas with massive unemployment, these destination resorts have to fill vacancies for unskilled laborers by bringing over foreign nationals--the wages and benefits at these places are so low that adults living in rural areas can't afford to work at them. Paying those kinds of wages exploits the foreign workers and increases pockets of poverty for those already living here.

    <h2>We don't need this kind of economic model in this country or in this state; especially when the end result is also environmental degradation. When we can come up with an economic plan for resorts that pays living wages, then I'll consider staying at one.</h2>

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