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Ponderosa's Sudden Eco-Resort Conversion 

When you give a three-year-old a present and he angrily stamps his feet and says he doesn't want it, then changes his mind five minutes

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When you give a three-year-old a present and he angrily stamps his feet and says he doesn't want it, then changes his mind five minutes later and demands the gift, it's predictable. But you expect somewhat different behavior from a group of grown-up businessmen.

To fill in the back story: During last winter and spring's legislative debate over a bill to protect the Metolius Basin from destination resort development, legislators offered a sort of "consolation prize" to the two would-be resort developers, Ponderosa Land & Cattle Co. and Dutch Pacific Resources.

Ponderosa, which wanted to build a vast resort including a golf course, was
offered the right to build a smaller version with 100 homes and a 20-room lodge instead. Dutch Pacific, which wanted to build a much smaller "eco-resort" without a golf course called "The Metolian," was given the option of building a similar resort elsewhere.

While the legislative wrangling was going on, the Ponderosa group repeatedly assured legislators and reporters they had no interest in building any eco-resort. So the general assumption in Salem, and elsewhere, was that Ponderosa would build its 100-home resort on the eastern edge of the Metolius Basin and Dutch Pacific would build its little eco-resort someplace else, most likely in the Bandon area.

Now, though, Ponderosa has decided it wants the legislature's present after all. Rick Allen, Ponderosa's lobbyist, told news media that after the legislative session ended "we sat down and started reading this thing" - the legislation - and, after doing so, decided to file an application with the state Department of Land Conservation and Development to build its own eco-resort.

The timing is curious - why did Ponderosa wait until the session was over to read the legislation? - and so is the motive. Why does an eco-resort suddenly seem appealing after Ponderosa rejected it for so long?

Dutch Pacific is yelling foul, saying Ponderosa entering the picture will undercut its efforts to attract investors for its own resort. Of all people, Paul Dewey - attorney for Central Oregon LandWatch and a staunch resort opponent - agrees, saying the legislature's intent never was to let Ponderosa develop both a conventional golf course resort near the Metolius and an eco-resort somewhere else.

The underlying intent of HB 2228 isn't clear; Ponderosa (and some legislators) say it gave eco-resort development rights to both it and Dutch Pacific, but Dutch Pacific (and other legislators) say the expectation was that only the Metolian developers would take the deal. That view seems to be supported by Ponderosa's earlier insistence that it didn't want to do an eco-resort. Rep. Brian Clem, the legislator who authored the Metolius protection bill, fears the interpretation of HB 2228 will set off another bloody fracas in the next legislative session. Lawsuits are being talked about.

Nobody can blame Ponderosa for trying to look after its interests, but there's an odor of disingenuousness hovering over the way it's doing it in this case - a way that seems likely to create needless strife and legislative chaos. For that, we're administering THE BOOT.


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