Nine parties file appeals of rural reserves plan

The fight over where the region will site future urban development, and which lands will be off limits, took another turn last week when nine groups opposing the urban and rural reserves plan approved by the state last year took their arguments to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Last Wednesday was the deadline to file an appeal of the plan, which was affirmed by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission on Aug. 19, 2011. While the commission approved the plan last year, it took state regulators nearly another year to finalize the written order — the actual binding language of the commission's decision. That came down Aug. 14, triggering a 21-day timeline for appeals.

Now the appeals process will speed up. The law creating reserves put in a strict timeline for the Court of Appeals to act. If the court doesn't throw the decision back to state regulators, appellants can take their case to the state supreme court.

Briefs in the cases are due Sept. 25, but looking at the exceptions the parties filed earlier in the process, two major themes emerge in their arguments.

Anti-Washington County

A trio of appellants make similar arguments regarding Washington County's method of identifying potential urban and rural reserves.

n 1000 Friends of Oregon (filing with Washington County farmers Dave Vanasche, Bob Vanderzanden and Larry Duyck) argued in its exception that many urban reserves approved in Washington County didn't meet the test for potential urban reserves outlined in the law. Mary Kyle McCurdy, senior staff attorney and policy director for the land-use nonprofit, said Washington County was front and center in their appeal.

"They basically came up with their own alternative way of analyzing agricultural lands that we think is different and counter to the law," McCurdy said.

n Save Helvetia, filing with Robert Bailey, enunciated a similar line of attack, narrowing its focus to include criticism of the city of Hillsboro's north Hillsboro concept plan.

n Carol Cheserek Cherry Amabisca argued that Multnomah and Clackamas counties conducted the right kind of analysis on the reserve lands, while Washington County, by relying on a GIS analysis of its lands, failed to meet the standard required by law.

The 'L'

An area of land on the western edge of Multnomah County — "the L," as it was known during the debates around reserves — was designated as a rural reserve, triggering exceptions and appeals from the following property owners:

n Metropolitan Land Group argued that the state approved a rural reserve designation for the 38 acres of land it owns in Multnomah County in the "east Bethany area," without sufficient evidence.

n Sandra Baker and Barker’s Five LLC argued that Multnomah County erred by assigning a rural reserve status to her family's 62 acres along the Multnomah County and Washington County boundary.

"To be subjected to this policy as rural reserve for the next 50 years under SB 1011 is reckless and naive. Our property will be limited, challenged and devalued by this new zoning," Baker wrote in her exception.

n Kathy Blumenkron owns 40 acres of land along Springville Road in the same area east of Bethany. She objected to having her land assigned a rural reserve designation as well.

"The decision that was made appears to be political, following political boundaries," Blumenkron wrote in her exception. Blumenkron has also filed suit in Federal District Court in Portland relating to the reserves process.

The others

Three other appeals focus on other parts of the metro region.

n Elizabeth Graser-Lindsey filed an objection arguing that the state misinterpreted the values of agricultural lands, urging the remand of all urban and rural reserves.

n The cities of Tualatin and West Linn filed a joint exception to the inclusion of the Stafford Triangle as an urban reserve in the reserves plan. "A fundamental flaw that infects the entire report is the department's interpretation that the regulatory scheme grants Metro and the counties an unprecedented level of discretion over the location of urban and rural reserves," wrote Jeffrey Condit, an attorney for the cities.

Chris and Tom Maletis argued in their exception that their property located south of the Willamette River, east of Interstate 5 and west of Airport Road in Clackamas County should have been designated urban reserve. The Maletis brothers have also sued in federal court.

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