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Land-use debate heats up in Salem

Washington County officials and land-use watchdogs headed to Salem on Friday to talk to legislators about how to respond to Thursday's Oregon Court of Appeals decision rejecting the designation of Portland-area urban and rural reserves.

The decision essentially invalidated Metro's most recent urban growth boundary expansions because they were based on now-invalid urban reserve designations.

Beaverton and Hillsboro have already spent a lot of time and tax dollars working with property owners to develop approximately 2,000 acres in the South Cooper Mountain, South Hillsboro and North Hillsboro areas.

Several legislators had been talking about ratifying some or all of the boundary expansions before the court ruling was released. They include state Reps. Brian Clem (D-Salem), John Davis (R-Wilsonville) and Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro), who thought lengthy appeals process was creating too much uncertainty

Although the Washington County commission had initially opposed legislative intervention, Chair Andy Duyck went to Salem on Friday after releasing a statement on Thursday saying, "As a result of today's ruling, our region faces renewed uncertainty just as the state's economy has started to recover. We will need to work with our community partners and consider our next steps carefully."

Jason Miner, the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, also went to Salem to learn what lawmakers are thinking. Miner's organization was one of the parties that appealed both the urban and rural designations and the urban growth boundary expansion.

Miner says the court's ruling was a victory for farmers and other residents of the region. He said the court found Washington County had overreached and designated valuable farmland for development in violation of state land use planning laws.

"I don't want what is happening in Salem to overshadow the victory we achieved yesterday," Miner says.

At the same time, Miner says he was willing to listen to the debate in the state Capitol. "Maybe there are some leaders there who can come up with a compromise that all sides can support. I don't want to prejudge that."

Despite that, Miner says his organization is opposed to lawmakers making land-use decisions.

The so-called "land-use grand bargain" lawmakers are discussing is House Bill 4078. It was approved by the House Rural Communities Committee and referred to the House Rules Committee. Clem says he is working on amendments that will be released soon.

By law, the 2014 Legislature must adjourn by March 5, although it can be extend up to five days at a time by a two-thirds vote of both chambers.