Water Resource Protection ordinance would erode ownership rights

Time is running out. The City of Ashland Water Resource Protection Zone Ordinance will be brought to the public hearing for the council's approval on April 21. I have serious concerns with this proposal.

So far, the public hasn't been allowed to speak before the council on this issue. The mayor, who now runs the City Council meetings, previously directed this proposed ordinance through the Planning Commission as its chairman. He appears biased in favor of its passage in its strictest form. I was allowed to observe but not speak as he and the City of Ashland Planning Department staff put the council through an elaborate indoctrination.

I fear the council will regard this proposed ordinance as a consensus of many points of view which will result in improving our ecology. But for me, it would erode my right of ownership and would devalue my property without compensation. I estimate that more than 2,000 feet of Hamilton Creek runs through them. This proposed ordinance concerns me in the following ways:

1) The study doesn't reveal that the City of Ashland uses our creeks as storm drains. During past years, without notification or my consent, the City of Ashland has piped untreated surface waters from streets and subdivision homes into Hamilton Creek and onto my property. When I questioned this practice, I was informed that a city of Ashland's size is unregulated in Oregon, and although it's a questionable practice to dump excess water onto another person's land, I would be required to sue the city to prevent it. Are you also reserving my land to dump the runoff of future developments like the 55-acre Croman project? Why is this intrusive practice allowed, instead of creating a pipe-controlled storm drainage system? Isn't that why we have service development charges?

2) Hamilton Creek's normal flow width is 2 to 4 feet with a depth of 6 to 18 inches, and it contains no fish. Why should this proposed ordinance mandate an area 40 feet on each side of the creek center, a total of 80 feet? Does that justify taking my land and my neighbors' backyards when a worse pollution problem may come from the City of Ashland's storm drain program? Why does this small stream warrant such a wide expanse of land to become so restricted and devalued.

3) This proposed ordinance only affects residences within Ashland's city limits. Hamilton Creek runs between the City of Ashland and Jackson County jurisdictions. So the "next-door neighbor" will not have these proposed restrictions!

4) No landowner I know wants this proposed ordinance. We already agreed to ample restrictions on our land and creek areas when we purchased our properties. Please review these restrictions, which are already in place, before burdening us with more.

Why should landowners accept the devaluation this proposed ordinance will cause without compensation?

I'm amazed at the low public awareness of this issue. Cancelled hearings and poor public notice have been contributors. Many feel it's hopeless to fight the city. Good stands are taken, but the City of Ashland always seems to do as it wishes.

I hope the council will weigh the severity of this proposed ordinance against what it attempts to accomplish before voting.

Retired from his family-owned printing company, Zach Brombacher manages development properties in Ashland. He has lived here since 1967.

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