Metolius River Forest Homeowners Association

A place for posting matters of importance to Cabin Owners and their visitors, along the Metolius River in Deschutes National Forest, Camp Sherman, Oregon

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Metolius and the Great Resort Ban Debate!

Many ask us for updates all the time on the efforts to ban new Destination Resorts in the Metolius Basin. We are including two links to Bend Bulletin articles on the subject for those interested; Note: these links will only be operable for as long as the Bend Bulletin chooses to maintain them:

Bend Bulletin Article 4-22-2008

Bend Bulletin Article 4-23-2008

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ok so we got Appraised....NOW what?

Getting asked quite a bit by permit holders in the MRFHA Tracts what we might recommend about the recent lot appraisals. If you could see me shrug my shoulders I suppose that isn't much help, huh?

Most of us don't really understand the whole fee appraisal process to begin with. When it's explained most of us can just feel our eyes glaze over after a minute or so and everything after that sounds a lot like 'Blah, blah...blah'.

The story out of the nutshell is that 6 lots were chosen by our association to represent the 108 cabins. Those 6 lots were appraised by a FS selected contractor as though they were for sale 'fee simple' lots
in the private world, WITHOUT improvements or buildings and with similar features/value as OUR lots would be as bare land; a value is estimated that a reasonable person in 'current' market conditions would pay to BUY the lot(s). Then 'appropriate' adjustments are made and a value is recommended to the FS. This appraised value establishes out BASE FEE (appraised lot value times 5%) beginning in 2011; that fee will be escalated each year after, most likely upward. your lot worth the appraised value? No? Yes? Maybe? It IS tough for the lay person to tell. But, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to request in writing a full copy of your lot appraisal. Contact
Jeff Sims right away.

DO THIS TODAY The clock is running for you to get this document.

Only after you've read the appraisal and reviewed the comparable sales can you have a PRAYER to judge if you lot was appraised high or not. You have 60 days from the date of the announced appraisal results to let the FS know if you intend to contest the appraisal.

For a more thorough understanding of your rights reread your note that came with the announcement. We'll try to have a notice out here within another 20 days reviewing what folks can expect should they go the route of challenging the appraisal.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cabin Coalition 2 Update..and why you should care!

Folks who keep telling us that they can't BARE the changes coming in fees by 2011 sould be following and participating in the process known as Cabin Coalition 2.

Below is a link to the OFHA site with various sublinks to more information. Below the link is a verbatim article written by those who recently went to Washington DC to lobby on behalf of rethinking the cabin fee calculation methods to make them fair and affordable to more than just the very wealthy. Yes, all this is THAT important, so if you hold a cabin permit, even on another forest, read this stuff and follow your heart!

Important Cabin Coalition Link(s): OFHA

Letter/Update on Cabin Coalition efforts reprinted for our readers here:

"In an effort to keep you apprised, those of us who went wanted to let you know the trip to Washington DC this week on behalf of cabin owners nationwide was a success and to report a few key facts along with conclusions from the journey. We went with two goals in mind: first to drive home the point that CUFFA is irretrievably broken and fees are starting to cause some families to abandon their cabins over high fees and second to float our ideas about the final two solution sets that are being considered while listening for advice about how to proceed. Naturally we were attuned to any messages that might have suggested we were wasting our time or that cabin permit fees were not on anyone's radar screen, but we did not hear that feedback from anyone.

To begin, a brief description of the trip follows. There were six of us plus lobbyist Aubrey King: Geoff Anderson, President of NFH, Mary Clarke Ver Hoef, ED of NFH, Sharon Karr, Secretary of Oregon Forest Homeowners, Pete Bailey, NFH Board member and his wife Barb Bailey, co-president with Pete of the Quinault Cabin Association, and Dick Almy, C2 member and Lake Wenatchee Summer Home Association. This meant there were two from California, one from Oregon and three from Washington. We had meetings all day Monday, all day Tuesday and 1/2 day Wednesday. Dick could not be gone the full time, so he left late afternoon Tuesday to return home.

Monday opened with a breakfast meeting with former Under Secretary Mark Rey (he was the one who issued the administrative moratorium on fee increases for 2009 that was later reversed by the new Agriculture Secretary). Mr. Rey remains sympathetic and offered several thoughts about dealing with the Forest Service. This was followed immediately by a 2 hour meeting with the Forest Service, including Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief, Gloria Manning, Associate Deputy Chief and two others including a Legislative Affairs staffer. That meeting went about as expected, meaning we were received politely and our concerns were accepted mostly without comment or enthusiasm. We left having made only one visible impact on the attendees over the issue of the significant language changes to the permit that the FS seems to be totally unaware that permittees were not advised was pending. Our comments took the Forest Service aback because it was clear they did not know this feedback loop had not occurred. They promised to look into how and why that happened, but did not actually agree to revisit the changes even though that is exactly what we asked them to do. Otherwise the only other meaningful outcome was that we also tasked the Forest Service with determining if it would be possible for them to issue an administrative stay on implementing the fee increases for 2009 if a permittee were to file an appeal over the fee amount. Joel Holtrop agreed to have his people look into that possibility, but he was very clear that the Forest Service is of the opinion they have no choice but to implement CUFFA as they interpret it. This means that, even if it is possible to secure an administrative stay on the fee increase if there is an appeal of the fee, unless there is a change in the law, all other fee increases are going into effect. The Forest Service never made it clear when they plan to send the rest of the 2009 fee invoices out. Some parts of the country have received their invoice weeks ago. Therefore, we have no guidance about when others could receive their 2009 fee invoices.

In the afternoon of Monday we met with legislative staffers for a) Senior Majority Counsel (David Brooks) and Majority Counsel (Scott Miller) for Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee, b) Senator Jon Tester, MT (who has been very helpful thus far) c) Senator Maria Cantwell, WA (who has also been very helpful), d) Senator Jim Risch, ID (freshman, but we think inclined to help as his Legislative Assistant was very receptive, used to be on Senator Larry Craig's staff and so knows cabin issues very well) and e) Senator Ron Wyden, OR (Wyden remains a key figure for us because he is the Chair of the Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee and it is in this committee that Coalition 2 believes the first hearing would occur if we can get enough steam built to move forward on a change in the law). All these meetings went relatively well. We pushed for a hearing and in very general terms outlined the two key methods being discussed: first, the appraisal approach that would explicitly value all permit restrictions and limitations before applying a multiplier (call this modified CUFFA) and second, a non-appraisal method that would pair a fixed base fee of some kind with a transfer fee if and when a cabin is sold. We have more work to do on both of these concepts, but both were received with interest by the staff folks we spoke to.

Tuesday meetings included legislative staffers for a) Senator John Barrasso, WY (another significant supporter of cabin owners), b) Senator Diane Feinstein (who is at least as important to the future course of change as Senator Wyden; her staffers asked great questions and gave us some homework to do) c) Representative Jim Costa, CA (Chair of Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; d) Representative Devin Nunes, CA, who is also a supporter of the program and who's Legislative Director knows about as much about our issues as any staffer we met and who said "just tell us what you want us to do and we will do it") e) Representative Mike Simpson, ID (his Legislative Director is also a major supporter and the Congressman himself is no fan of the USFS). The only actual member of Congress we met was Representative Norm Dicks who met with us for 15 intense minutes and who knows little about the program or the issues, but who concluded the meeting by standing and saying to his staffers in attendance, "Lets see if we can help these people". The final Tuesday meeting was with Frank Gladics, (Minority Professional Staff Member, Senate Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee - Note: this is the same subcommittee as David Brooks and Scott Miller are counsel too for the Democrats).

Wednesday included meetings with staffers for a) Representative Tom McClintock, CA who made a welcome personal appearance half way through our meeting (Member of House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands), b) Doc Hastings, WA (Ranking Minority member of House Natural Resources Committee) and c) Senator Lamar Alexander, TN (Ranking Minority member, Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee; note - there are cabins in Tennessee and some of the permittees are really getting engaged with issues for the first time so Alexander may prove to be important too). The group also dropped by unannounced to see Misty McGowan, of Senator Crapo's staff, ID on Wednesday. We were received warmly and assured that Senator Crapo is also on board.

As you can see this was a full agenda and we made the rounds as efficiently and with as much energy as we could muster. All of us honed the ability to provide the 30-second sound bite to make certain points or to transmit important information and we believe that we reinforced the support that already existed for cabins and expanded it somewhat too. We were taken seriously (or at appeared to be!) by everyone even as Congress is being overwhelmed by economic issues. Having said that, we were told in no uncertain terms that we still have a LOT of work to do and that the legislative fix will take time and a favorable outcome is not certain. Still we were encouraged to keep working towards a hearing (first in the Senate - in Wyden's Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee - and then probably in the House). We were advised to keep both sides of the aisle involved and to work parallel between both houses of Congress lest we find irreconcilable differences at the end that become a problem. The central tendency for timing seems to be a Senate hearing late May or this summer, followed by the House later in the summer, with draft legislation being drafted into the summer and fall once there is clarity over our desire to push either the appraisal-based methodology or the non-appraisal method or some hybrid. More trips to Washington DC will be required.

Conclusions we have reached:
1. We need to resolve our final strategy with respect to which fee-setting approach to push hardest and to develop a timeline for all that has to happen, chose participants for hearings and arm them with data and statements, to create new legislation and manage that through Aubrey King.

2. NFH/Coalition 2 Washington Representative (aka Lobbyist) person Aubrey King is more important than ever to the success of our endeavors.

3. Remaining work is substantial and will eat-up the rest of 2009, it will likely be 2010 before we can legislative relief if it happens at all.

4. It is critical we stay in touch with Congressional staffers and keep them up to date on our thinking and our activities.

5. If we are to get a legislative fix, it will be because the DEMOCRATS want it to happen (notably Wyden and Feinstein). We heard repeatedly that the minority Republicans believe they have pushed as hard as they can already.

6. We will not have the FS on our side as we pursue a legislative fix. The best we can hope for is that they are not active opponents.

7. The results of the Economic Impact Study will be critical to our success (we discussed preliminary results in every meeting and, without exception, staffers were interested and tuned-in).

8. Near term help on 2009 fees will not be forthcoming from Congress.

9. Our only remaining hope for deferring the implementation of 2009 CUFFA-mandated fees is the slim reed of asking the FS for an administrative stay for those permittees who appeal the new fees on the grounds of inability to pay. There is no assurance they will provide such a stay, but the FS did seem interested in at least determining if they thought they could legally do it.

10. We need to continue to raise money for legal fees, trips to Congress and to pay costs of Coalition 2.

By comparison this trip was more productive than a similar trip in 2002. We had more and better meetings this time and our message was more complete and focused. If you read this report and are depressed by its tone and all the cautions included, also know that we came home more optimistic than when we left. The group really does believe there is enough interest in our plight and a genuine interest in keeping the Recreation Residence Program going because of all the good it does, that if we remain persistent and united we can reach the holy grail of a permanent fix to fee-setting that will allow the vast majority of families to retain their cabins. We have a lot of work to do, but we think it can be done.

Finally, as we stay "top of mind" by writing letters and e-mails to Congress, please ask for a hearing followed by legislation. Our suggestion is to work a few family-oriented themes into your e-mails too. We did not tell 107-year old Gretchen Minard's Lake Wenatchee family story to everyone we met, but when we did her longevity and risk of cabin loss attracted immediate interest and concern. Also know that FS Chief Gail Kimball has a personal hot-button: "reconnecting kids to the natural world" by getting youth into the forests. If you have anecdotes that prove your cabin is a tool to kindle this reconnection, write them and send this information on to your Senators and Congressmen.

Hopefully if you are still reading you have a better appreciation of what we tried to achieve by going to Washington DC and how we did moving toward those goals. Stay-tuned, each of you will remain important to the cause at the appropriate time.


Dick Almy, Geoff Anderson, Pete & Barb Bailey, Mary Clarke Ver Hoef and Sharon Karr"

MRFHA - Camp Sherman

MRFHA - Camp Sherman
Metolius River