The Big Look Task Force on Oregon land use planning recently issued a preliminary report with recommendations on changes to Oregon’s land use regulations. If adopted, the recommendations would make significant changes to the current laws. The Task Force recommendations cover five specific areas – resource lands and rural areas, growth management, governance, economic prosperity, and climate change.
Resource Lands/Rural Areas
For resource lands and rural areas, the Task Force noted that Oregon’s rural “planning” has created a one-size-fits-all statewide system with very little flexibility. According to the Task Force:
“The Oregon Land Use Planning Program classifies lands for farm and forest uses but has become complex and rigid over time – the clear connection between many regulations and desirable policy outcomes has become lost. Some lands that have little economic utility for farming or forestry are classified for those uses, creating significant frustration. Rural zoning has very little nuance or variation. At the same time, there is little or no protection for significant natural areas such as important wildlife habitat and watersheds.”
To deal with these problems, the Task Force recommends that tools be developed to identify farm and forest lands of statewide importance, with local and regional governments left to identify and plan for areas that are not of statewide importance.
For those lands that are considered to be of statewide importance, market-based tools such as conservation easements and transferable development rights would be used in conjunction with regulation to preserve the land in resource use.
The growth management portion of the Task Force recommendations address growth in urban areas. The Task Force recognizes that planning in urban areas too often relies on statistical efficiency of development rather than making sure that the quality of life in urban areas is maintained.
The Task Force makes a number of recommendations for urban area lands, including increased funding for infrastructure to service the 1.7 million new residents projected to move to Oregon over the next 50 years, the redevelopment of brownfield sites (properties that are contaminated and must be cleaned up before being converted to residential development), and the expanded use of urban and rural reserves.
In addition, the Task Force recommends that cities develop multiple plans to deal with future unknown contingencies (e.g. the economy slows, new technology is developed), so that they are not hamstrung by one plan, and that “safe harbor” provisions be adopted to allow cities to comply with state regulations.
In this section of its report, the Task Force makes recommendations on how to change the procedural aspects of the current land use system. Specifically, the Task Force addresses the proper role for the legislature, LCDC, and local governments in land use planning.
Among the Task Force recommendations are a major overhaul and reduction of the Oregon Revised Statutes dealing with land use planning, allowing LCDC and local governments the flexibility to address land use planning, not the state legislature.
In addition, the Task Force recommends that LCDC move away from regulatory, adjudicative and appellate functions, and toward long range planning to carry out broader policies. In other words, LCDC should worry about the big picture, not the day-to-day details.
The Task Force recognizes that Oregon has a much more diverse economy than it did in 1973, when Senate Bill 100 created Oregon’s current land use planning system. The Task Force recommends that state agencies including LCDC attempt to identify both new industries that can locate to Oregon, and the amount of land that these new industries will need.
Once these determinations are made, the Task Force suggests that land use laws be revised to allow for quick changes to allow new industries to move to or be created in Oregon.
The Task Force claims that climate change is having a profound impact on the natural world, and suggests that lowering automobile usage is the most effective way to impact climate change.
To solve this “problem,” the Task Force recommends that the state establish benchmarks for reducing greenhouse gases from all sources, including cars. Once these benchmarks are established, the Task Force recommends that state agencies, including LCDC, develop strategies to reduce greenhouse gases, including compact urban development (i.e. condos and apartments), mass transit, and increased open space preservation.
The Task Force report is available online at www.oregonbiglook.org. At that site, you can download the Shareholder Group Briefing Booklet, which contains the Task Force’s proposed recommendations.
In addition, you can take the Task Force’s survey and respond to their proposed recommendations at www.oregonbiglook.org/survey. Everyone is encouraged to respond.
1. Identify farm and forest lands of statewide importance, and let local governments determine the appropriate uses of lands that are not of statewide importance.
2. Develop tools to identify resource lands of statewide importance, along with the criteria for what lands are most important, with a peer reviewed public process to designate those lands.
3. Identify which lands of statewide importance are at the greatest risk of future development. Lands that are at greatest risk of future development should be preserved through a combination of market-based tools and regulation.
4. Use market-based tools, along with regulation, to keep important lands that are at the greatest risk in resource use. Recommendations include the purchase of land, easements, or transferring of development rights.
5. Allow land uses in rural areas that are not of statewide importance to be determined by local and regional governments, as long as those uses are consistent with efficient public services and carrying capacity, and as long as impacts to neighboring uses are acceptable.
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