Newport attorney Dennis Bartoldus asked the city council Monday night to leave his clients’ property out of the city’s water system enhancement plans. Bartoldus told the council that by putting the Etherington’s home inside what’s called Newport’s Urban Growth Boundary, the boundary aimed at better protecting the town’s drinking water supply, the couple’s property values would drop. They say the quiet rural setting is what gives the home its value which would be substantially reduced if the property became part of the city’s urban growth boundary – and then later annexed into the city.
But Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said expanding the city’s urban growth boundary, as a prelude to annexation some day, would give the city greater control over what activities could be allowed on the hillsides surrounding the only water supply for all of Newport. Tokos briefly reviewed the Big Creek Reservoirs’ advancing age and the likelihood that the lower dam would fail in the event of a large earthquake and that the upper dam is not in much better shape. Again, by lassoing the two lakes and bringing them inside the city’s urban growth boundary, it would give the city effective control of the fate of the lakes in terms of water quality.
A state planning representative asked why not allow the county planning department and the county commission to regulate those hillsides because, under state land regulations, those lands must remain timberland, anyway?
When that idea got nowhere with the council, Bartoldus offered a compromise which would allow the the urban growth boundary to be placed just outside the property’s main building area or about sixty feet north of Big Creek Gravel Road. Tokos and Public Works Director Tim Gross said “that might work. Let’s talk about it.”
Although the public hearing on the matter was closed, testimony will be admissible for the next week with the latest developments in the negotiations presented to the city council on May 6th for a possible decision. Another resident who lives close to the upper reservoir at its the east end said he was startled to hear that part of the access road to his home would be destroyed by raising the level of the dam. But Tokos said should that happen, the city would be legally obligated to build him a new access road to his residence. Norm Ferber seemed satisfied with the response.