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Industrial land use reform kit

Some assembly required. Batteries not included.

Start with SB792 from the 2011 session

The proposed legislation would have allowed selected counties and cities within those counties to cooperatively determine the amount of needed industrial land and expedite its designation. It needed additional work then, and also needs to be updated to better authorize meaningful suitable site criteria, protect regional agreements on land supply from special interest group appeals, and apply the lessons learned in the so-called ‘grand bargain’. The main idea is that it prohibits conversion and requires both regional cooperation and a committed infrastructure funding mechanism (no raw land speculation).

Although it didn’t pass, it did light a fire under the Governor and LCDC to authorize a pilot project in Deschutes County (which drew a special interest group appeal) and a regional solutions project in Malheur County. It is time to allow the entire state to do what only a few can do now.

It could use some more sophisticated implementation authority language. It may be the HB2255 or its companions mentioned below could be helpful in that regard.

Add some restrictions on special interest group appeals

The Governor’s office and LCDC proposed restrictions in 2011 SB766 (as introduced) and 2013 HB2255. It was stripped out. SB766 eventually passed as amended; HB2255 got nowhere. The 2255 version is very workable; it limits appeals to showings of unconstitutionality or significant and material breach of the public process. Groups can’t tie economic development up in court just because they have other policy preferences.

Apply the lessons from the Metro reserves remand

The legislature protected a cooperative regional agreement from legal mischief. It can do more and there may be lots of pressure to get it to do so. The systemic problem needs a systemic solution available to everyone.

LCDC discovered that it has less authority than it attempted to practice – the court said only LUBA can reach into the content of the record to make its findings. Or another more pointed way of saying it – LCDC does not know how to do its job and write up its reports. This needs to be fixed – and any obstacles removed.

There is a disconnect between the way Metro does its planning, what the law now requires and the reality on the ground. For example, Metro treats any zoned industrial land as fully develop-able at zoned capacity regardless of facts on the ground. For example, even though the Metro region (not Metro the political beast) is often described as the engine of the entire Oregon economy, Metro the political beast can choke it off if it chooses to do so. For example, Metro does not consider itself subject to Goal 9 (economic development) under current land use interpretations by LCDC. Metro has no obligation to consider the economic interests of the entire state.

Apply the lessons learned from Newberg

Newberg identified the most sensible and likely to develop land for economic development. LCDC thinks that long range land planning must somehow peer into the future and predict the operational needs of individual end users. The point of suitable site criteria is to have a designated land supply of sites that will develop as intended to attract the jobs intended. Cities should not be forced to route truck traffic through neighborhoods or past schools.

Explain why this matters

The connection between a strategic industrial land supply and our ability to pay for schools needs to be illustrated. Competing values are all important to somebody. When and if we say that school funding is more important than farm land, what criteria will make us comfortable with that choice? Are Christmas trees, potted plants or grass seed more important that schools in your neighborhood?

This post will be edited as improvements become available. So… feel free to link.