More Super-Siting from the Oregon Legislature?

A potential bill in the 2014 legislative session could usurp citizen appeals and open Washington County farmland to immediate development, The Oregonian's Christian Gaston reports. It's another example of legislative "super-siting": overriding local plans to pave the way for development.

Gaston writes:

Nearly 2,000 acres in Washington County could be freed for development if an Oregon lawmaker gets his way.

Metro, the regional planning agency, brought four parcels within the urban growth boundary in 2011, but court challenges that could extend into 2015 and beyond have stymied development plans.

Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, is drafting a bill for the February legislative session that would clear those legal hurdles, making way for a new high school near Beaverton, among other plans.

The land in question was included in Metro's 2011 urban growth boundary expansion proposal, but those expansion cannot move forward until appeals of the region's urban and rural reserves plans are resolved at the Court of Appeals.

1000 Friends, along with several farmers and other organizations, appealed the reserves plan because it opened too much high-quality farmland to development, especially in Washington County. (Read our letter explaining our appeal here.) Appeals are an important part of Oregon's land use process, because they give citizens and public interest groups a chance to check overreaching development proposals.

But the Legislature could use its power to override citizens' appeals and open land for development more quickly, Gaston writes. 

The Legislature can use unilateral authority, known as “super-siting” to approve land for development. If lawmakers did that in this case, the legal battle would essentially be moot. The UGB decision would stand even if a court threw out the reserves plan.

The Beaverton School District hopes to open a new high school by 2017 in a UGB expansion area known as South Cooper Mountain, along Scholls Ferry Road near Beaverton.


However, Rep. Davis' proposal may not even be necessary, 1000 Friends Policy Director Mary Kyle McCurdy told Gaston:

Mary Kyle McCurdy, policy director for 1000 Friends of Oregon, said she doesn’t see any reason for the Legislature to step in.

Metro already has processes it could use to approve all but the North Hillsboro parcel by 2016, she said.

And under a special exemption Metro could approve the school district land even sooner. School district officials are already talking to Metro about doing just that.

“It doesn’t seem to me that the timing is such that this bill needs to be passed in the February session,” said McCurdy, whose group is fighting the urban and rural reserves plan chiefly because they think it opens up too much farmland for development.

1000 Friends will closely monitor this potential bill. Watch for more information if and when it proceeds.