The Oregon Legislature convenes on February 1. Already, approximately 1500 proposed bills have been filed, and we expect another 1500 to be field soon after the start of the session. So far, about 10% relate to land use. Below we highlight the key bills we will be supporting and opposing.
We will add to this list as the session moves forward, so please check back to this page for updates. And, please let us know if you would like to receive legislative alerts as we go through the session. Click here to add you name.
Transportation for Oregon's Future:
Oregon needs modern transportation options
Oregon needs to compete in the 21st century. Our state must move beyond the old highways-focused approach and invest in one that is people-focused. All Oregonians deserve a transportation system that provides options for how to meet their daily needs – with safe places to walk and bike, convenient transit, and well-maintained roads and bridges. Over ¼ of Oregonians do not drive, and more would prefer not to. Yet for too long, Oregon has neglected to invest in safe and accessible ways for our youth, older people, the transit-dependent, and those with physical challenges to get to work, school, and stores. Oregon spends less on transit than almost any other state in the US.
The Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee held hearings around the state this past summer, and in every corner of the state they heard from Oregonians demanding transit, walking, and biking options.
Transit looks different in different places, but Oregonians from Portland to Baker City to Astoria need adequate, stable funding to meet the needs of workers, students, older adults, and the transit-dependent. 2017 is when the Legislature must change that for all Oregonians. Better transit service, walking and biking options statewide also reduces climate pollution, allows people to live more affordably, and grows the economy. That’s why 1000 Friends will be working to pass a package of transportation initiatives that includes:
- Transit funding to meet increasing demand and connect communities
- Safe Routes to School for Oregon’s children
- Youth transit
- Safer streets, sidewalks and crosswalks
- Connected bike networks
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through better transportation planning
- Fixing our deteriorating roads and bridges first
Invest in the Future of Oregon Agriculture
1000 Friends joins a diverse consortium of organizations in support of the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program bill. The goals of this program include helping landowners maintain working farms and ranches, providing incentives and support for conservation benefits on those lands, and helping grow Oregon’s next generation of farmers. Bill elements are expected to include:
- Tools and incentives to protect working farms and ranches while maintaining or enhancing fish and wildlife habitat or other natural resource values, such as conservation easements, term conservation covenants, and conservation management plans.
- Assistance with farm succession planning, including bringing new farmers into the industry.
- A study of tax issues impacting agricultural land
Help Defeat SB 186:
A Land Grab in the Willamette Valley
SB 186 would undo specific rural reserve designations in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties, thereby opening up certain areas designated as “rural reserves” for eventual development. It would undermine the region’s multi-year effort to come to a consensus about where long-term growth should – and should not – happen And perhaps most importantly, it would ensure that the region’ s residents will not participate in any kind of process like this again – where certainty was promised, only to be grabbed out from underneath them because a small number of individual land owners did not get their way.
The bills propose to remove the “rural reserve” designation from three farming areas that many of you worked to protect:
Clackamas County: SB 186 would convert 18 acres of land zoned for exclusive farm use from rural reserve to “rural industrial.” The parcel is located south of the Willamette River, in the larger 800-acre French Prairie Rural Reserve. It is sometimes called the “Red Barn” property and it is surrounded by active farming. This area has been continually designated as a rural reserve – without controversy – until it was purchased by an auto dealer and others, who first went to Clackamas County about a year ago, trying to re-zone the land to allow parking, servicing, and detailing new cars for the dealership. This faced universal opposition from Clackamas County residents, three state agencies, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and Friends of French Prairie, among others. Now those same landowners are back – attempting to supersite through special interest legislation what they cannot achieve through the law or obtain public support for.
Washington County. SB 186 adversely impacts two different but large and productive farming areas in Washington County, by converting land located in the midst of these areas from rural to urban reserve.
- Over 1500 acres located south of Highway 26 and stretching across a huge swath, from the Brookwood Parkway west to McKay Creek.
- Three adjacent parcel of lands totaling under 100 acres, in the Helvetia area north of Highway 26 and to the west of 185th.
These are excellent farm lands, and are located in one of Oregon’s richest areas of agricultural production. Loss of this land to urbanization would have a permanent and detrimental impact on the future of the farm economy in Washington County.
Enough is enough. Every legislative session another handful of land speculators wants their land treated specially. That’s not planning. That’s not protecting local food supplies and Oregon’s #2 industry. It is just enriching a few land speculators at a cost to many, many more.
No on HB 2538
HB 2538 would allow the Land Use Board of Appeals to award “actual damages equal to any substantiated economic loss suffered by the prevailing party as a result of project delays caused by the review proceeding,” against those who lose in an appeal of the Land use Board of Appeals (LUBA). This is on top of attorney fees and expenses that LUBA is already allowed to award against a losing party, if their position was not “well-founded in law” or not based on “factually supported information.”
This bill would chill the ability of average Oregonians to have their day in court when they believe their local government has violated the land use laws. Being able to challenge local government decisions is a bedrock of our United Stated governmental structure of checks and balances.
Is there a flood of land use appeals that are gumming up legitimate development? No. It is estimated that local governments make more than 15,000 land use decisions a year, ranging from the very minor to the very large. Yet fewer than 120 appeals per year have gone to LUBA between 2011-2015. If there is a systemic problem in a local government’s land use code that is preventing the type of development contemplated by the local plan and map, then the “fix” should be made at the local level. Making it riskier for community members to participate in their governmental decision-making process – including to appeal a government decisions – is not the answer.
 http://www.oregon.gov/LUBA/docs/LUBA%202017-19%20ARB.pdf, pp.5-6.
Other Super-Siting Bills to Defeat
A handful of bills have been proposed that would allow farm, forest, and range land to be opened up to urban uses if the county in which the land is located is experiencing certain defined levels of high unemployment or population decline. While it is true that parts of rural Oregon have experienced an economic downturn that has outlasted the recession, it is disingenuous to float raw land as the solution – especially land that is part of the land base for the industry that is #2 statewide, and is #1 in most of rural Oregon – agriculture. The real answer is for state government to invest its economic development dollars in Oregon’s smaller, rural communities – to grow value-added agricultural products businesses, to provide the infrastructure needed to process and move products, to innovate new products, and to invest in existing small businesses and opportunities.
We will let you know of specific bills if they move to a hearing. But in the meantime, let your state Senator and Representative know that you hope they will not support legislation that would simply open more farmland to urbanization, under the guise that this somehow is economic development. Ask that the legislature make real investments in the economies of Oregon’s rural communities.