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Getting along in the country

Editorials

As the county grows, greater density will invitably mean more rules

What do animals, noise and garbage have in common?

All three tend to annoy the neighbors.

Why are county commissioners concerned with all three?

Because they annoy the neighbors. And when neighbors get annoyed, and they can't resolve the situation directly, they turn to government to protect their peace and tranquility.

In the past month, Jackson County officials have mediated a dispute that started with noise and escalated to include pigs and a blind horse, and announced tougher enforcement of codes regulating structures, unsightly or unhealthy junk and illegal animals. They should expect to deal with more such neighborly conflicts as the county grows.

Incorporated communities have always had ordinances designed to keep residents' actions from encroaching on their neighbors' rights to peace and quiet. The unincorporated county traditionally has had less need for those rules, because homes were more isolated.

— But as more people choose to live outside city limits, they will inevitably live closer together, and what once were isolated homes will increasingly become neighborhoods. And more neighborhoods will mean more rules.

Jackson County commissioners, who are working to streamline development claims filed under Measure 37, should recognize that the new law may accelerate this process. Claims that result in homes being built where land-use regulations previously prevented them will only add to the density in rural parts of the county.

With density will come conflicts. Conflicts will generate new ordinances. The problem facing the county is how to enforce new and existing rules with a staff already stretched thin.

Commissioners are on the right track with their announcement this week that county workers will take action when they see an obvious code violation rather than waiting for a complaint. And a noise ordinance now in the works will give sheriff's deputies another tool to use when they are called upon to defuse a neighborhood dispute.

More rules may yet be needed. The challenge for the commissioners will be to anticipate them before annoyances escalate into full-blown feuds.

Let it rain

If you're someone who enjoys visiting Applegate or Lost Creek reservoirs ' and many of us do ' you might consider brushing up on your rain-dance moves.

Failing to fill the the region's two largest reservoirs has happened in just three years ' 1993, 1994 and 2001' since Lost Creek Lake first filled in 1978, but this year isn't looking good either. The Rogue Basin's snowpack had dropped to 46 percent of average by late last week, leaving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worried that the two reservoirs will not fill by the usual May — deadline.

The Corps' project manager for Lost Creek and Applegate says there is less than a 50 percent chance of filling each of the reservoirs. Not filling them would hurt the ability to adjust water releases for migrating salmon, for irrigators and for people who raft, boat and fish.

We've been in this situation before, only to be bailed out by a cool, wet spring.

If all else fails, hide your umbrellas. We all know that not taking one with you can almost guarantee a downpour.