Legislative Update on our 2015 Priorities

We're at the halfway mark of the Oregon 2015 Legislative Session, which is a significant milestone. Any bill that did not pass out of a policy committee in its chamber of origin is now dead. [Well, it's probably dead. There are ways to revive a dead bill, but it's infrequent and difficult to do.] 

While it has been a very challenging first half, 1000 Friends’ legislative priorities are still alive thanks to our passionate supporters and friends. Because of you, the major threats to the land use program are mostly dead. The following is an update on the status of some of the major land use bills 1000 Friends has been working on. We were following approximately 300 bills, so we've only listed the primary ones here. If you have a question on a bill you don't see listed, please call or email us at:

Mary Kyle McCurdy: mkm@friends.org and 503-497-1000 x130
Steve McCoy: steve@friends.org and 503-497-1000 x126

Major Priorities – Still Alive!

Planning for Natural Hazards.

When Oregon’s Land Use Program was established 40 years ago to help local governments make wise decisions with respect to community growth while protecting the state’s natural resources, Oregonians crafted the Statewide Planning Goals. Goal 7 is dedicated to natural hazards. While most of the 19 goals have been implemented in state law or agency rule, Goal 7 has never been implemented. This has resulted in a patchwork of preparedness amongst Oregon’s communities. Goal 7 encompasses a host of disasters exacerbated by climate change, including coastal and riverine flooding, coastal erosion, landslides, wildfires, tsunamis, and earthquakes. It’s time for the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to implement rules so that natural hazards will be adequately addressed as part of the planning process. Working with Rep. Ann Lininger, we crafted HB 2633 to address this blind spot in planning. HB 2633 has been amended and passed out of its House policy committee to Ways and Means to await funding.

Closing a Loophole on Property Line Adjustments.

When voters passed Measure 49 in 2007, it included a simple mechanism to encourage continued resource use on resource lands, even after a Measure 49 claim was executed.  It requires newly partitioned lots from Measure 49 waivers to be two acres or smaller on high-value resource lands and five acres or smaller on other resource lands. This ensures that, of the three lots that can result from a Measure 49 claim, one will be large enough to support commercial agriculture. Measure 49, however, didn't ensure that a subsequent property line adjustment would not reconfigure the lots such that the size of the smaller lots would increase, making the larger lot too small for commercial agriculture. That's been happening, and thanks to Rep. Helm and Rep. Clem, HB 2831 will correct that oversight.  HB 2831 is now awaiting a vote in the House.

Housing for All.

HB 2564, which would remove the prohibition on cities and counties using inclusionary zoning (IZ) as a tool to help provide affordable housing, passed the full House on a 34-25 vote. Now it's on to the Senate. IZ is a market-based, land-use housing policy that provides the opportunity for individuals and families of all economic levels to live in the same neighborhoods. It's a tool local jurisdictions can shape to their unique needs to ensure that public investments in transportation and other amenities are available to all. Oregon’s land use program includes Goal 10, housing, which requires that all communities plan their land and transportation systems to ensure the provision of housing for all, including affordable housing. Having the right land use and zoning tools in place is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, element in providing affordable housing in all communities. Oregon is missing this important land use tool. 

It's time to lift the IZ prohibition and leave it to each community whether (and how) to use IZ to ensure that all residents have access to safe, stable housing, neighborhoods, transportation, and other amenities. 1000 Friends has worked with organizations, people, and cities across Oregon to see this bill passed.

Transportation.

1000 Friends is advocating for a transportation funding package that adequately prioritizes safety and maintenance over new roads and highways. It also funds pedestrian and bicycle facilities and transit for youths, seniors, and disabled Oregonians. While the Legislature has held hearings on some elements of a transportation package—for example, bills supporting reduced transit costs for youth—the bulk of the transportation discussion and decisions, including funding Connect Oregon and whether to raise the gas tax for roads repair and maintenance, was put off during the first half of the legislative session. We expect it to be linked to other issues in the second half. Watch our website or call for updates.

Brownfield Redevelopment.

Brownfields, land that suffers from contamination or the perception of contamination, are often a community liability. This hampers the redevelopment of places that could become homes, parks, or the next neighborhood store. According to a recent survey, 76% of brownfields are within urban growth boundaries—places people want to live. A suite of bills that are alive in the House Revenue committee are designed to help clean up brownfields. HB 2734, which helps create local tools to accelerate clean up, including land banks, has the greatest chance of passing. HB 2289 is a companion bill that provides tax credits for clean up and a bonus structure that benefits clean up in high-poverty neighborhoods. This bill also promotes redeveloping the spaces into affordable housing.

Bills that Threaten Oregon's Land Use Program – Mostly Dead!

SB 716.

SB 716 would have allowed each Metro county to designate one large lot industrial parcel each of 150-500 acres in an area that is an urban reserve, a rural reserve, or was previously designated as an urban reserve. Almost all of these areas are currently farm, forest, or natural resource areas. If the “large-lot industrial site” is taken from land now designated as rural reserve, the acreage must be made up by changing the designation of land outside the UGB to "rural reserve." SB 716 would open up all the current reserves land (and much more). This will allow certain areas that do not qualify as urban reserve to skirt the process and be developed, including the French Prairie farm lands south of the Willamette River, the Helvetia area in Washington County, and other valuable farm and natural resource areas in all three counties.

Thankfully, the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee voted not to recommend the bill on a 3-2 vote. Voting against SB 716 were Senators Dembrow, Prozanski, and Olsen. Please thank them. Voting in favor of SB 716 were Senators Edwards and Thomsen.

SB 25.

SB 25 would have allowed eight Eastern Oregon counties to rezone any or all EFU, forest, and mixed farm/forest use lands to whatever they want either legislatively or quasi-judicially. SB 25 could have allowed sprawling subdivisions on lands that have been in continuous farm or forest use for generations.  It would have allowed certain counties to redesignate all resource lands for development, even if they're still in active production. Protecting farm and forest land is a fundamental mission of Oregon's land use program. Increased uncertainty for farm operators near UGBs will cause them to decrease investments in their lands. This would bring valuable agriculture land out of production and make farming even more difficult for their neighbors. Furthermore, taking farms and forest lands out of production would cost Oregon jobs. Ultimately, SB 25 died in committee following its hearing.

SB 86.

SB 86 would have allowed firearms training facilities as a conditional use on farm lands. This would have introduced conflicts to the farm zone. Additionally, there's express preemption of regulation built into state firearms laws so that once you have a shooting range, there are few restrictions on what is allowed on that land. Under current law, this preemption prevents local governments from placing conditions on shooting ranges. It also prevents them from enforcing other laws, such as noise ordinances or restrictions on the types of weapons that can be fired. Neighbors would have been disturbed and possibly placed in danger, and livestock would have been frightened. SB 86 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee after its hearing.

SB 748.

SB 748 would have allowed an easy path to circumvent the goals of Oregon’s land use program in approximately 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties. SB 748 provided an automatic exception to any and all statewide planning goals in counties experiencing high unemployment, a lack of growth, or high poverty levels if the local government found that 10 high-paying jobs would be created. While apparently no counties would meet the poverty threshold set in the bill, rural counties all over the country are losing population—including eight in Oregon—and the unemployment rate is set so low (7%) that much of the rest of the state, including part of the Willamette Valley, would be swept in as well. Additionally, the entire state would be brought under the bill when the next recession hits. SB 784 was stunningly broad in geographic coverage and a blatant attempt to break the UGB. The bill died in committee after its hearing.

HB 2666.

HB 2666 would make it even more difficult to prevent gravel mines from conflicting with nearby agricultural uses by changing the meaning of “significantly effects” with regards to agricultural uses. HB 2666 has been amended to reduce its effects. It has been assigned to the House Rules Committee where it can survive until the end of the legislative session. There's a work group currently discussing the bill. If the group does not reach consensus, the bill will die in committee.

Various Bills on the Metro Rural and Urban Reserves.

In addition to SB 716 (see above), several other bills were introduced that would have, in one way or another, changed lands currently designated as urban or rural reserves. These bills mostly focused on the Stafford Basin in Clackamas County, but they're dead. The decision of the Stafford Basin's proper designation is appropriately before Metro and the County.

SB 534.

This bill is alive, and 1000 Friends opposes it. SB 534 authorizes a city to provide urban sewer and water services to an airport outside the city’s boundaries without going through the procedures that currently exist for providing such services. The impetus for this bill seems to be the Aurora Airport, which has non-airport industrial uses around it. The airport wants these urban services without coming inside the city of Aurora's nearby UGB. In general, Oregon’s land use program directs that urban services are to be provided inside UGBs. These are expensive, long-term investments meant to encourage denser and more efficient use of land inside cities and towns. Urban services are not appropriate for rural areas, where such investments often conflict with farming and forestry activities. Because of their costs, these investments also bring pressure to develop farm and forest lands and contribute to inefficient sprawl. This also conflicts with vacant industrial sites in existing cities, where investments have already been made in roads, sewers, and water for industrial uses. SB 534 passed out of the Senate and is now awaiting a hearing in the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water.