Goshen ‘Great’ Plan Problems

Lane County is plowing ahead with its plans to develop the rural industrial area of Goshen, which lies just south of Eugene. The county calls its plan to develop Goshen “GREAT” — the Goshen Region Employment and Transition plan — but land-use and environmental advocates have serious doubts about its greatness, and LandWatch Lane County has a case about Goshen before the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

Lane County issued a press release on Jan. 13, touting a $20,000 Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DCLD) grant to conduct a “sewer feasibility study” in Goshen. Mia Nelson of land-use advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon says the county is going at things backwards. She says a feasibility study is a good thing “and something that should have happened before the county went running to the state to have Goshen designated a ‘regionally significant industrial area.’”  She asks, “What if sewer isn’t feasible?”

Goshen, like nearby Lane Community College, is not on the Metropolitan Wastewater Management sewage system, and being able to deal with wastewater and sewage affects the growth of a community or industry.

Nelson adds that even more importantly, “the county should have done a wetlands evaluation on the front end — even before doing this sewer evaluation.” She says it’s possible that most of the vacant land in Goshen is wetlands. “It might be,” she says,  “because about 80 percent of it is mapped as hydric soils.” Hydric soils are very wet soils commonly associated with wetlands, and development that affects wetlands is regulated under state and federal laws. Nelson says, “Inherent in the question of whether sewer is ‘feasible’ is a determination of how many usable acres the system will serve.”

LandWatch Lane County argued its Goshen case before LUBA last week. Lauri Segel-Vaccher, who has been working on the issue with Eugene attorney Sean Malone, says LandWatch is “disappointed that DLCD is using planning-grant money this way.” Segal-Vaccher says it’s hard to support funding for “the county to develop urban levels of industrial and commercial services outside the urban growth boundary.” LandWatch works to prevent sprawl and to protect natural areas and farmlands.

Segel-Vaccher says LandWatch pointed out at LUBA that Lane County needs to address the wetlands issues, which are related to the septic/sewage issues, now. She says that Lane County, on the other hand, argued that it was “too early for a feasibility study” because it thinks “on-site septic would work for a while,” and when the county sees septic no longer works, then it could do a feasibility study. Lane County spokesperson Anne Marie Levis says at this point the county does not have any comment on the LUBA review.

LandWatch argued that the county needs to study the feasibility in conjunction with the proposal because the Goal 14 exception the county wants “assumes levels of development beyond on-site septic and/or water service capacity,” and Segel-Vaccher says the need for that isn’t adequately justified in the county’s proposal. Goal 14 is an Oregon statewide planning goal that keeps urbanization inside city boundaries.

In a recent newsletter, LandWatch wrote that the group “has reason to believe the county hopes to ultimately run sewer service to Goshen through the LCC basin, where developers, including the McDougal brothers, own land and would benefit from urbanization.”