The future remains unclear for Woodburn’s long-running urban growth boundary (UGB) expansion case, following the Oregon Supreme Court’s 4-2 ruling last month to deny the city’s petition for judicial review.

The city needed just one more vote to have its case taken up by the justices. Instead, the Jan. 2 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals was effectively upheld, in which the judges reversed the state Land Conservation and Development Commission’s approval of the city’s UGB proposal.

According to city Communications Coordinator Jason Horton, the ruling by the high court means the matter will be returned to the state level.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case, it now goes back to LCDC,” Horton said. “It is uncertain what LCDC is going to do with the case.”

He added that City Administrator Scott Derickson will soon be meeting with the City Council to discuss the case and determine what the next step should be.

Before being cleared by the LCDC, the expansion had also been OK’d by the Marion County Board of Commissioners and the Woodburn City Council.

“The Courts of Appeals has done this to us twice now, after we’ve gone through the local, county and the state,” said Council President Pete McCallum. “Essentially, they leave you up in the air.”

The years-long process has left some councilors, like McCallum, admittedly exasperated.

“I am extremely frustrated in the process,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong: I am for managed land use. But it needs to be managed and not just ‘No, no, no,’ for a number of places like Woodburn.”

McCallum also referenced other cities in the region that have spent years attempting to enlarge their UGBs, all to no avail, including Newberg and McMinnville. He also spoke of the so-called “land use grand bargain,” a measure addressing land-use issues in Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, which was implemented through the state Legislature after the standard process was stalled in the judicial system.

He admitted that he had entertained the possibility of seeking similar relief from legislators on Woodburn’s behalf. Though whether the city really pursues such action would have to be determined by the full council, McCallum said he believes the proposal could find support in Salem.

“In the political world, all you hear about is jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “Well, if we haven’t got the land or the ability to expand in a managed way, how are we supposed to create jobs?”

Either way, he said the decisions facing the City Council are “tough” ones.

“We’ve had two shots, and I think we had very good reasons why we should get our expansion,” he said. “So, where do we go from here? We’re in limbo right now. Do we take a third shot or do we try and go another course? … We’ve already taken several runs at doing it through the courts. Maybe we have to turn our sights on Salem.”

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