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WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE CAN HURT YOU
The Belva Coblantz Story 

For nearly 40 years, Belva Coblantz, now 83, has lived on a five-acre parcel of property in St. Helens, Oregon. She and her husband purchased the land in 1960 for $6,500. Now a widow, Coblantz wants to sell her property and relocate to California so she can be near her daughter. Almost blind, she would like to have family around for company and to help her with her daily routine. But Coblantz can't sell her land because the State of Oregon and the City of St. Helens says there is a protected wetland on it.

Coblantz's house is surrounded by houses and businesses. In addition, new development is taking place all around her. Naturally, she didn't expect any problems when she decided to sell her land for $310,000 to a development company that wanted to build an assisted care unit on the site. But in August 1999 she received a letter from the company canceling the purchase because it discovered that the State Lands Division determined that a protected wetland covers most of the site making construction impractical. Coblantz needs the money from the land to be able to move to California to live near her daughter. Now she is stuck living in St. Helens. 

Coblantz can't understand how her land can be considered a protected wetland. She says houses are being built just a few blocks away from her on land that is far wetter than hers. Likewise, a city councilman who owned land right next to hers was able to sell his land for housing development even though he had to pump water out of the basements of those houses during construction. Coblantz talked to the city planner about trying to get the wetland designation changed but she says, "he wouldn't give an inch." Coblantz said he actually told her she should just be content to live there the rest of her life.

"I really need the money," says the widow. "I'm nearly blind now and I want to be close to my daughter." She feels the whole wetland thing is deeply unfair. "I really and truly don't understand how people working for the government can think that what they are doing to me is right."
Source: Oregonians In Action

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