Surprise, elation, disappointment in response to Oregon court throwing out urban, rural reserves plan
Oregonian (Portland, OR), 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--Reaction to an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling throwing out a 50-year growth plan adopted by Metro and Portland-area counties in 2010 ran from elation to disappointment.
Local government leaders said the ruling would put more uncertainty in the planning process, legislators suggested it was time for them to step into the years-long process and those hoping to unseat Washington County Commissioners piled on with criticism.
Here's a brief collection of quotes from Thursday summarizing the range of responses to the ruling.
Conservationists cheer ruling
1000 Friends of Oregon, a statewide land use advocacy group, challenged the reserves plan in court and justices agreed with their most pointed critiques of the plan.
"The court clearly understood the law and that Metro and Washington County did not apply it correctly. The substance of the law was to protect the best of the best farmland. Washington County overreached in claiming land for future development, undermining certainty for both industrial land and farmers," said Mary Kyle McCurdy, who argued the case on behalf of 1000 Friends.
"These aren't technicalities, and this isn't complex. It's simple," said 1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner. "Oregonians believe industrial land and farmland stand in balance. Washington County violated the law and upset this balance."
"From our standpoint we feel we've been vindicated by the decision," said John Platt, of the citizen group Save Helvetia, which fought against the inclusion of hundreds of acres of farmland north of Highway 26 in the reserves plan.
Local governments say ruling will add complexity to planning efforts
"We were very disappointed by today's court ruling," said Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck. "For many years we have worked with our community members, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties, Metro, and state agencies, in a good faith effort to conserve farmland and set aside urban reserves in anticipation of future growth in the region. As a result of today's ruling, our region faces renewed uncertainty just as the state's economy has started to recover. We will need to work with our community partners and consider our next steps carefully."
Metro President Tom Hughes took a wait-and-see approach to the ruling.
"I think we move forward with our friends out in Washington County," Hughes said. "How difficult is it for them to apply to change the factors that they apply, and apply them in a way that gives them legitimacy as far as the court's concerned?"
Hughes said the Legislature should wait for local governments to find a solution.
"My position is the Legislature should stay out of it now maybe more than ever because now we move into a phase of this that's very technical and very nuanced," Hughes said. "We've got 38,000 pages of evidence and within that evidence there are the answers of how we fix this."
Legislators see a need for action
"I think it's time to do a deal," said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem. He's working on a plan that would bring together local governments, conservationists and developers to agree to amend the map and sidestep legal review for the 2011 Urban Growth Boundary decision that's in limbo until reserves are settled.
Rep. Ben Unger, D-Hillsboro, who's working with Clem on the "land use grand bargain," hailed the decision as a win.
"We had a little bit of sprawlamania. This decision helps fix that ailment," Unger said of the reserves plan the court threw out. "It was a Houston model for growth not a Hillsboro model for growth."
Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, said the ruling could boost chances of a legislative intervention.
"I think the ruling shows that some of the process concerns are very legitimate," Bailey said. "This may catalyze a sea change."
Washington County Commission candidates see opportunity
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, who is running against Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry chided commissioners for designating controversial farmland as urban reserves.
"It is obvious to me that the Washington County Commission was determined to take prime farmland and make it into developable, urban property despite citizen and farmer testimony to the contrary," Furse said in a letter to supporters. "Thousands of hours and thousands of dollars, both public and private, were spent to ensure Washington County followed the law. Shame on them."
Allen Amabisca, who is running against Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck, echoed Furse's statement in a press release -- cheering the decision and criticizing the commission.
"This is a big win for the people of Washington County, and the entire state of Oregon. It is a lesson to current county leadership that such aggressive policy dictation, without meaningful citizen participation or regard for the laws of the State of Oregon, is not only a massive waste of taxpayer money and time, but it is also embarrassing and illegal," Amabisca said.
-- Christian Gaston
(c)2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.