Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Bills we successfully defeated

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Wed, 07/26/2017 - 6:30pm

The 2017 legislative session was a long and winding road. Early land use threats died easily, while new ones cropped up at the final hour.

In every legislative session, bills are introduced that will remove land use planning from some or all of eastern Oregon, or that will destroy the integrity of urban growth boundaries, and this session was no exception. In this session a few of them progressed through the legislature farther than we have seen in years. Make no mistake about it, our thoughtful planning that has made Oregon such a livable and lovable place for so long, is increasingly in jeopardy. 

1000 Friends of Oregon successfully defeated multiple bills that undermined the land use system, including HB 432 - a major threat listed by the Oregon Conservation Network. We successfully fought back legislation that would have severely damaged Oregon’s land use planning program, its farms and ranches, and its iconic landscapes. 

We could not have achieved this without you, both through your financial support to 1000 Friends and your outreach to Oregon senators and representatives. We cannot emphasize enough how much it means to legislators to hear from their constituents.  Here is a recap of the some of the major bills 1000 Friends OPPOSED during the 2017 legislative session.  If you have questions or comments about any of these or any bill that is not mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact Mary Kyle McCurdy, Deputy Director, at mkm@friends.org

Undermining land use in eastern Oregon: SB 432 

Senate Bill 432 would have exempted counties that are experiencing no population growth, including cities in those counties, from complying with the statewide land use planning goals. Similar bills introduced included SB 602, 608, 612, and 618. While these bills’ alleged purpose was economic development in eastern Oregon, SB 432 and the others would have had severe negative impacts on the economic health of these counties in the following ways:

  • By harming the area’s #1 industry, agriculture
  • By creating both uncertainty and inconsistency it what type development would be allowed
  • By harming the attributes that support other, growing industries in eastern Oregon
  • By undermining years of effort the State of Oregon, eastern Oregon counties, and a broad array of stakeholders invested in the state sage-grouse conservation plan that can help prevent further decline of the species and the potential for an endangered species listing.

1000 Friends and the Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) opposed SB 432, including listing it as a major threat by OCN. 1000 Friends spearheaded a letter to Senate leadership, signed by many conservation groups, describing the bill’s flaws and listing extensive suggestions for effective ways the Legislature could support economic development in eastern Oregon without undermining the land use system. We also asked you to share your opposition to SB 432 with your legislators - and you did!

Ultimately, due these combined efforts, we were able to stop SB 432 during the last days of session. 1000 Friends will be working with farmers, ranchers, legislators, state agencies, and others to craft real economic development solutions for eastern Oregon that support the region’s #1 industry – agriculture – rather than destroying it.  Please join us in thanking Senator Michael Dembrow for his leadership in supporting Oregon’s land use program and defeating SB 432.

Undoing Rural Reserves in the Willamette Valley: SB 186 

SB 186 would have undone specific rural reserve designations in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties, thereby opening certain areas designated as “rural reserves” for eventual development. SB 186 would have undermined the region’s multi-year effort to come to a consensus about where long-term growth should – and should not – happen. It would have resulted in unnecessary and expensive urbanization pressures on some of the key local food-producing lands around the Metro region. 1000 Friends, with support from scores of people and organizations from around the Metro region, ensured this bill did not move forward.

We anticipate that this will be an ongoing struggle between interests that seek to urbanize the Willamette Valley, and our farmers and food producers who rely on this land for its agricultural value. 

The mega-tollway west side bypass: HB 3231

HB 3231 would have authorized cities and counties to form a special taxing and revenue district to undertake everything involved with financing, designing, building, and operating a limited access tollway. The bill authorizes the tollway district to use eminent domain to acquire land, and to establish, collect, and enforce tolls. The tollway on which this idea was modeled is in the Denver area, and charges (according to the Oregonian) tolls up to $17.45 for cars and $69.80 for trucks.

Although no route is described in the bill, HB 3231’s chief sponsor described a tollway extending from Woodland, WA, crossing to Highway 30 in Oregon at either Columbia City or Portland just west of the I-5 bridge (so on a new bridge) and then through Forest Park, both intersecting with Highway 26 at Cornelius Pass, then paving a swath across the Tualatin Valley west of the current UGB, Yamhill County, and French Prairie, and joining I-5 somewhere south of Donald in Marion County.

Because you called and wrote to your elected leaders, HB 3231 will not move forward, helping to protect the state’s most productive farm land from being paved over. 

Other bills we defeated include:

HB 2538
HB 2538 would have allowed the Land Use Board of Appeals to award “actual damages equal to any substantiated economic loss suffered by the prevailing party due to project delays caused by the review proceeding,” against those who lose in an appeal at LUBA. This bill would have chilled the ability of average Oregonians to have their day in court when they believe their local government has violated the land use laws.

HB 2893
HB 2893 would have allowed lands with Class VI, VII, and VIII soils to automatically move to the top of the list for UGB expansions and urban reserve designations, regardless of their productivity or contribution to the area’s agricultural industry.  These soils are among those that support Oregon’s #1 agricultural commodity - cattle and calves – and thus should not be automatically moved to the top of the priority list. This bill was also not needed, it was just another way to attempt to undermine land use.

HB 2937 and HB 2938
Both bills would have permitted additional housing on farm land as a conditional use.

Farmers already face challenges to engaging in farm practices by the proliferation of housing not related to farming on lands zoned for exclusive farm use. Over 500 such houses were approved by counties on farm land in 2015 alone. More housing in these area’s causes greater conflict with the primary use of the land – agriculture.  1000 Friends, working with the Oregon Farm Bureau, prevented these bills from moving forward.

SB 1024
As introduced, this bill would have required counties to allow an additional dwelling on an already-developed lot in rural residential areas and would have restricted counties’ ability to condition the housing or its use. We believe that this would have added even more urban pressure from tourism onto our rural lands.

More links and descriptions of these and other bills this session can be found on our 2017 Legislative Session Page.