Wildfire bill irks commissioners

Attorney Wally Hicks led the Board of Josephine County Commissioners through a legal counsel update Tuesday, Sept. 27 in the board’s conference room.
JoCo Airports Director Jason Davis requested the board grant him power of attorney to pursue a project involving the Josephine County Animal Shelter’s septic system.
“Just in case there’s some folks that are not aware, that belongs to the airport – the property does,” Davis noted. “They’re having some difficulties with their septic system and it sounds like it needs to be rebuilt.”
The commissioners granted Davis’ power of attorney request, with the caveat that they are kept apprised of how the project costs stack up. Davis replied that the expenses will come out of the animal shelter’s budget so representatives of the shelter will be better able to do so.
Moving on, the board discussed whether or not to send a letter in opposition to Oregon Senate Bill 762, believing the legislation unjustly limits property rights by imposing penalties on properties that do not take steps to limit fire risk.
A controversial statewide wildfire risk map tied to SB 762 was repealed earlier this year after a backlash concerning how some regions were designated.
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger stated, “The map has been put on hold but that doesn’t stop all the rulemaking for defensible space, getting fined for not having defensible spaces, construction standards, new zoning laws so you can’t build where you want and what kind of concrete you have to build your house with… We gotta write a letter and be on record as opposing this – everything (about it).”
Baertschiger noted that all three Oregon gubernatorial candidates – Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and Independent Betsy Johnson – voted for SB 762, so the legislation will likely proceed unimpeded regardless of who succeeds Governor Kate Brown.
According to Oregon.gov, “Senate Bill 762 is comprehensive legislation passed with bipartisan support that will provide more than $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness through three key strategies: creating fire-adapted communities, developing safe and effective response, and increasing the resiliency of Oregon’s landscapes.”
Shortly before the board agreed to send a letter opposing SB 762 in its entirety, Baertschiger opined, “This would severely adversely affect the citizens of Grants Pass.”
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Commissioner Darin Fowler added that it would also damage property values and the economy as a whole, while Commissioner Dan DeYoung went as far as to say Oregon lawmakers seek the “demise of the United States of America.”
The last major action of the meeting was moving legislation that would create “time, place and manner” restrictions for psilocybin businesses on a future weekly business session agenda.
If the voters of Josephine County reject psilocybin legality in the November election, the restrictions will be moot, but as the Josephine County Code requires 90 days for ordinances to take effect, rules must be established now should psilocybin become legal for manufacturing and supervised medical use in January.
Psilocybin manufacturing and service centers would be prohibited in residential, home occupation and forestland zones. Manufacturing would be allowed only in farm zones and service centers would be allowed in commercial or industrial zones.
According to JoCo assistant legal counsel Allison Smith, “A psilocybin business would need to have a business license to operate in the county and would need to have a valid license from OHA… There’s buffer zones within both the ordinances for product manufacturers and service centers from schools, childcare facilities and other psilocybin businesses to keep them spread out.”
All three commissioners vented their frustrations during discussion on the topic with how the state of Oregon is yet to publish rules for how the Psilocybin Services Act will be implemented and concocting the rules with scarce scientific evidence.
One facet in particular was how psilocybin administrators will verify patients are no longer intoxicated before releasing them from supervision, opening up the potential for driving while impaired.
DeYoung called the state’s method on psilocybin “insanity” while Fowler noted they are “fighting it the best we can” by having it on the November ballot.