In 1973 Governor Tom McCall pointed his finger at the "shameless threat to our environment and to the whole quality of life - unfettered despoiling of the land" [by uncontrolled] suburbanization and secondhome development.
There is a natural tendency for partisans on both sides of an issue to create competing narratives of legislative action. HB 4078, the so-called land use “grand bargain” generated such competing narratives in two op ed columns in the UnOregonian.
As senior policy analyst for WC CAN who followed the debate on HB 4078 closely in the Puzzle Palace I’m including both interpretations with my comments. As is often the case advocates on both sides live within their own spin zone.
But in my humble opinion "some spin zones" are better than others. Decide for yourself. Here's my previous blog posts on this issue:
By Jason Miner
The future of Oregon land use planning is in your hands. But some are trying to deny that future.
Over the past two months, the Legislature crafted a rural reserves compromise in Washington County that protects thousands of acres of farmland that were wrongly slated for development. Places like Helvetia will be protected for your lifetime.
Farmers in those areas can securely make investments in land and equipment and be confident that speculators won’t undermine them.
Meanwhile, the region’s cities have a clear map for their future, and taxpayers can be assured that land inside the urban growth boundary will be efficiently used before unnecessarily expanding expensive infrastructure.
But there was a serious cost to this deal. The Legislature stepped into a role it should never have to fill, bailing out a local government that willfully broke simple rules. Let’s be clear: This was brought about by local government failure.
RAD: Having attended all of the hearings on HB 4078 the legislators who crafted the “grand bargain” made it clear this wasn’t a precedent for more intrusion into local decisions. The unique timing of the Court of Appeals ruling and the legislature being in session made this possible. This is not likely to happen again.
In the hearing where HB 4078 moved from a bad expedited land use bill to something far more complex, everyone was caught off guard espeically the lobbyists on both sides in the hearing room. I've never seen anything so bizarre in my time in the Puzzle Palace.
Quite simply, Washington County overreached in the reserves process, designating high-quality farmland for sprawl by creating its own unjustifiable rules. It got caught by local citizens and by the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court condemned the use of “pseudo factors” in designating land for rural reserves.
Washington County ignored Oregonians’ long-held beliefs that farmland and urban land stand in balance. It ignored the input of local farmers and residents. It ignored the law that created the reserves process. And so the Legislature brokered a compromise that saved the rural reserves.
Now old opponents of planning are arguing it is a reason to undermine the entire program. They are arguing that farmland needs no real protection, that development should be unrestrained, and that your right to participate can be left by the roadside in favor of expediency. Do not let them win.
Oregon’s land use program is designed to uphold core values that Oregonians have held for decades: economic development alongside meaningful protections of farms, forests and natural areas. The program is working. Our agricultural industry sets records and earns international praise almost every year. Our cities and towns are growing faster than the national average while sprawling less.
The program has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and in 2013 legislation was passed to streamline urban growth boundary decisions for smaller cities, including those in rural Oregon. What happened with the reserves isn’t evidence of a broken land use system. It’s evidence of broken actions by local governments that ignored the law and got caught, and of a Legislature that acted to save a rural reserves process it created.
RAD: 1000 Friends joined Metro during the “grand bargain” process to support streamlining the hearings process. Some of those ideas are part of HB 4078. They focus on speeding up the hearing process not running rough shod over citizen involvement guaranteed in Goal 1 of Senate Bill 100.
This is not a pass for local governments that ignore the law. And it shouldn’t be an excuse to deny Oregonians the right to participate in shaping the future of their communities.
Oregonians themselves must determine the precedent set today, not legislators. Be assured those hoping to thwart the land use balance will argue for further legislative action. But citizens created Oregon’s land use program. Oregon’s future belongs to all of us, and so should the way we plan for it.
Jason Miner is executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon
By Jeff Bachrach
The Oregon Legislature unanimously passed the historic land-use grand bargain bill because it was widely viewed that the state’s celebrated growth management system had broken down due to regulatory overload.
RAD: Regulations didn’t fail, they saved us from a closed-door decision-making process in Washington County which jiggered the facts and marginalized citizen involvement. This was a “political” failure not land use system failure!
In the public hearings and work sessions on the “grand bargain” nobody claimed the system had broken down – that line was reserved for public consumption during the debate on the final bill by those who are hostile to land use planning despite unanimous YES votes in favor of HB 4078.
There is nothing wrong with the state's aspirational land-use goals and the need to reconcile them with a growing population and changing economy. The problem is that the labyrinth of state laws and Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) rules adopted over the years results in endless squabbles over technical details and protracted litigation that do little to create well-planned communities.
RAD: Again, as stated by Jason Miner the process has been streamlined in the past and was tweaked in HB 4078. Saving Helvetia and other farm land is not a mere “technical detail” but central to Senate Bill 100’s vision to prevent urban sprawl we see in LA, the Bay Area and Seattle.
As they say, the devil is in the details.
Mr. Bachrach can own his opinion but he doesn’t own the facts.
1000 Friends of Oregon disagrees. In a recent opinion piece, the organization’s executive director, Jason Miner, argues “the program is working.” The grand bargain, he writes, “was brought about by local government failure.”
The grand bargain came about as a result of a February ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals that reversed Metro's urban-rural reserves decision. Metro and the three counties and numerous cities it serves had spent five contentious years - plus about three more counting appellate reviews - creating a 50-year growth management map for the region.
The reserves map would have preserved 267,000 acres as rural reserves untouchable for development for 50 years, and limited all UGB expansions to 28,000 acres of urban reserves for the next 50 years. To provide perspective, utilizing all 28,000 acres of urban reserves would be an 11 percent increase in the supply of developable land to accommodate a projected 80 percent increase in population.
1000 Friends should have championed Metro’s reserves decision as a grand victory for their core message of farmland preservation and tight urban growth boundaries. But 1000 Friends and 19 other disgruntled parties filed appeals. Not surprisingly, considering the scope of the reserves decision and volume of regulations governing the process, the court issued a 126-page opinion that tossed out the map and told Metro and the local governments to start over.
RAD: Again, the facts of how Washington County violated the rules are certified in the Appeals Court’s ruling. When 1000 Friends, Save Helvetia and 18 other parties exercised an expensive right to challenge the process it’s not just because some people are “disgruntled.” It’s because the Board of Commissioners led by Chair Tom Brian and his successor Andy Duyck steam rolled Metro using "pseudo" fact claims and ignored citizen concerns.
Mr. Miner of 1000 Friends insists that “what happened with the reserves isn’t evidence of a broken land use system.” Rather, he blames it on Washington County for “designating high-quality farmland for sprawl.”
But that’s hardly a fair characterization of what happened. Because of the large amount of high value farmland in Washington County, as measured by soil type not actual productivity, designating a 50-year supply of potentially developable land meant that some high-value farmland had to end up as part of the urban reserves. About half of the urban reserves are located on soils qualifying as high value.
RAD: Again, Mr. Bachrach is trying to re-litigate post-facto the Appeals Court ruling in the court of public opinion. One should ask what his motivation might be? Well, he is a project manager for Newland Real Estate Group, which is the lead developer in the South Hillsboro expansion area.
Mr. Bachrach has a right to defend his self-interests but he doesn’t have the right to imply he and his real estate clients are neutral parties in this debate. As was clear from the hearings on HB 4078 there will be less developable land in Washington County than in Clackamas County.
Could that be the real issue which rankles the development interests even though Cooper Mountain and South Hillsboro were saved for development?
Moreover, the decision was not Washington County’s alone. The reserves map was approved in 2011 by all three county commissions, unanimously adopted by Metro and unanimously affirmed by LCDC.
Ultimately, the reserves decision was doomed by the daunting complexity of the process and the numerous parties taking legal aim at it. Blaming its collapse on Washington County is like blaming the Titanic on the sailor who saw the iceberg.
RAD: Again Mr. Bachrach can own his spin but he can’t own the facts as the Court of Appeals clearly found! The Titanic analogy fits what Chairs Brian and Duyck did not a lowly staffer in Washington County. There ran into an iceberg called the Court of Appeals!
Facing the economic and political consequences of having the Portland region with no approved growth-management map or an expanded UGB for another five or 10 years, the Legislature decided to act. It took the matter away from Metro and the courts. It disregarded land-use laws and imposed a new urban-rural reserves map and urban growth boundary for the Portland region.
RAD: Again, Bachrach typical of a lawyer without a case ignores the facts and reinvents history. HB 4078 only focused on the errors of Washington County, it left the Appeal’s Court judgment relative to Multnomah and Clackamas County in place.
It did not disregard land-use laws quite the contrary it preserved them! The new map preserved much of what had been done minus the egregious land-use swapping engaged in by Brian and Duyck in their failed attempt to silence engaged citizens.
Cities throughout the state have already proclaimed their expectation that the Legislature will give them the same kind of extra-legal land-use deal the Portland region got.
RAD: Mr. Bachrach may be right on this point if one believes the rhetoric coming from the House and Senate when HB 4078 was passed. But his clairvoyance may be more political sour grapes coming from Oregon’s powerful development community.
But rest assured Mr. Bachrach and his well-healed friends will not be the only voices in the Puzzle Palace come 2015!
While many legislators were clear that passage of the bill is an acknowledgement that the statewide land-use system is broken and systemic repair is needed, that will not be easily accomplished. The fact that the grand bargain happened is not enough to shake the faith of 1000 Friends and others who believe that the land-use system should be preserved essentially as it was handed down 40 years ago.
RAD: Right on Mr. Bachrach! Again yours will not be the only voice in the committee hearings come 2015…
The challenge ahead for Oregon is whether it can reclaim its mantle as a progressive national leader in land-use planning by developing a new and different kind of growth management system - one that reflects the values and goals that informed the original planning program, but is not captive to relentless regulatory schemes that do not result in good planning and policy-based outcomes.
RAD: My oh my – “relentless regulatory schemes…” It’s regulations and Senate Bill 100 that stopped developers and their local political minions in their tracks. Some would love it if developers like banks were “too big to fail” and too big to regulate. So far, Oregon is not for sale! Tom McCall’s legacy prevails!
If the Legislature is not up to the task, it may be forced to become a surrogate land-use decision-maker, brokering mini grand bargains for cities and counties around the state that are unable to plan and grow under Oregon’s current planning regime.
RAD: Oregon’s current land use system is the only thing stopping economic pressure from turning rural farm and timberland into instant suburbs. What captures the core of the two sides in this debate is a line from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”
"Plan and grow" depends on one’s perspective. Do we want Oregon to replicate suburban sprawl like we see in Washington or California or do we envision "smart growth" which balances urban, suburban, rural towns vis a vis open spaces? It depends on how one imagines Oregon!