LandWatch Opposes New Houses On Forestlands

Weyerhaeuser is a name long associated with timber, but back in 2010 the company became a REIT — real estate investment trust. Local land-preservation advocates from LandWatch Lane County say that Weyerhaeuser is one of the many landowners in the region moving property lines around on forestland to allow more houses to be built on what’s called an “impacted forest zone” on the edges of towns in Oregon.

Pointing to a document that was filed with the Lane County Land Management Division, Lauri Segel of LandWatch shows how one tax lot may consist of several deeds. One deed might be for a tiny bit of land, not large enough for a home. Another bit of land is nowhere near a driveway. Some of the deeds date back to the 1800s, she says. Landowners then apply to move property lines and build more homes — basically building a small subdivision in an otherwise rural area.

Landowners in the area who have applied to move property lines include Weyerhaeuser’s subsidiary WREDCo. (Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Development Company) and local developer Greg Demers, according to the documents LandWatch has obtained. The landowners ask the county to let them move property lines and build more homes on the tax lot while maintaining the property’s forest tax deferral. One application proposed to change 48.17 acres to a 5-acre property and a .55-acre property to 31.46 acres. “If it’s legal, I don’t think the Oregon land use system had this in mind,” Bob Emmons of LandWatch says.

Emmons adds, “What we are opposing now is Weyerhaeuser as a real estate company. We lose the [forest] resource, but they don’t lose the forest deferral.”

Matt Laird and Keir Miller of the Land Management Division say moving the property lines is indeed legal under Oregon state law. Impacted forestland is land that is closer to developed areas, Miller says, and consists of a smaller parcel size (80 acres or less) than the nonimpacted forestland that makes up most of Lane County.

Laird says most of the forestland in the county is protected from development under Oregon’s zoning laws. And he says that while moving the property lines on the impacted forestlands “might allow some rural home sites,” it “doesn’t allow you to extend out into deep rural areas.” He says the template for building homes on the impacted forestland forces clustering when new homes are built.

Segel says, “Lane County forestland is being parcelized without using subdivision and partitioning procedures.”