Springfield -- The self-described shaman of a New Age camp said Monday she will appeal a hearings official's denial of a county permit that would allow the camp to proceed on her 60-acre tree farm along Upper Camp Creek Road.
Whitewind Fisher, the founder of Friends Landing International Centers for Conscious Living, said she will move the camp to another location if she can't conduct it on her property, which is zoned for exclusive farm use. The "World Dream Camp" for healing arts is scheduled for Aug. 13-21.
In a ruling Monday, Hearings Official Milo Mecham said Fisher has run afoul of a Lane County land use requirement that prohibits temporary use permits for activities on farmland if structures valued at more than $1,000 are involved.
Mecham said Fisher indicated that camp participants sometimes sleep or eat in her home on the property. Even if the home weren't used, tents and portable toilets required for the event probably exceed the $1,000 limit, he said.
The denial was viewed as a victory by some McKenzie River Valley neighbors who accuse Fisher of running a home-based business on the property, and by a California man who objects to his adult son's relationship with Fisher.
Fisher has 10 days to appeal the ruling to Mecham. She can then appeal to the county Board of Commissioners and the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Fisher said Mecham's ruling surprised her. "We feel we can definitely fall within (the $1,000 limit) if we need to," she said.
Mecham noted that the $1,000 limit is "draconian" and hasn't been changed in more than 20 years. The result is that very few temporary use permits on farmland can be granted, he said.
Technicalities aside, Fisher blames her woes on [the father], a California dentist who first alerted county officials to potential zoning problems at Fisher's residence. Until then, Fisher said she'd conducted dream camps at her residence for three consecutive summers with no objections from neighbors or others. [The father] is estranged from his 22-year-old son, [the son], and believes his son is under Fisher's undue influence.
[The father] last year hired a cult "deprogrammer" in an unsuccessful effort to persuade his son to leave Fisher's property, where he lives and works as a "dream coach apprentice."
Fisher accuses [the father] of being an obsessive-compulsive personality who has alarmed her neighbors with a smear campaign against her and her husband, Ben. "It's really sad and a shame that people can be riled by someone who's pulling the wool over their eyes," she said.
[The father] on Monday praised Mecham's ruling as fair and just, "although it obviously does not free my son from the clutches of Friends Landing."
[The father] said the dispute illustrates the Fishers' indifference to zoning laws. "They're not concerned about their neighbors or about land use zoning programs," he said. "They basically are living by their own rules."
Carol Lee Boals, a neighbor along Upper Camp Creek Road, said she suspects Fisher conducts a variety of workshops and meetings on the property all year long - a charge that Fisher denies.
Boals said she's gratified by Mecham's ruling, but wishes county officials would investigate further. "But I guess we better be glad that we got what we got," she said.
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