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Land use debate heats up in Salem

Washington County officials and land use watchdogs headed to Salem on Friday to talk to legislators about how to respond to the Oregon Court of Appeals decision rejecting the designation of urban and rural reserves in the Portland metropolitan region.

The decision, which was released Thursday morning, essentially invalidated Metro's most recent urban growth boundary expansions because they were based on now-invalid urban reserve designations.

Beaverton and Hillsboro have already spent a lot of time and money working with property owners to develop approximately 2,000 acres in the South Cooper Mountain, South Hillsboro and North Hillsboro areas.

Several legislators had been talking about ratifying some or all of the boundary expansions before the court ruling was released. They include state representatives Brian Clem (D-Salem), John Davis (R-Wilsonville) and Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro), who thought lengthy appeals process was creating too much uncertainty

Although the Washington County Commission had initially opposed legislative intervention, Chair Andy Duyck went to Salem on Friday after releasing a statement on Thursday which said, "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."

Jason Miner, the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, also went to Salem to learn what lawmakers are thinking. Miner's organization was one of the parties that appealed both the urban and rural designations and the urban growth boundary expansion.

Miner said the court's ruling was a victory for farmers and other residents of the region. He said the court found Washington County had overreached and designated valuable farmland for development in violation of state land use planning laws.

"I don't want what is happening in Salem to overshadow the victory we achieved yesterday," said Miner.

At the same time, Miner said he was willing to listen to the debate in the State Capitol.

"Maybe there are some leaders there who can come up with a compromise that all sides can support. I don't want to prejudge that," said Miner.

Despite that, Miner said his organization is opposed to lawmakers making land use decisions.

The so-called "land use grand bargain" lawmakers are discussing is HB 4078. It was approved by the House Rural Communities Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. Clem says he is working on amendments that will be released soon.

By law the 2014 Oregon Legislature must adjourn by March 5, although it can be extend up to five days at a time by a two-thirds vote of both chambers.



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