Cities Gain Authority on Approving Land-Use Changes

Overview

Comprehensive plans are created by local jurisdictions, through extensive public process, to set city or county transportation, utility, recreation, land-use and housing goals. Comprehensive plans traditionally have two components; maps and text. The map shows the area and intentions geographically, while the text provides overarching themes and goals for the area.

Challenge

Comprehensive plans are typically created and maintained by the governing body. However, for decades, counties and cities in Oregon believed they had the right to delegate minor comprehensive plan map changes to their planning commissions or hearings officers. In 2015, in a ruling in Housing Land Advocates v. City of Happy Valley, the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) said counties have express authority to delegate decisions, but cities didn’t. A statutory change would be needed to give that authority to cities.

Salem and Happy Valley were two cities most severely impacted by the LUBA ruling. Both cities preferred to allow minor changes to the comprehensive plan map to be decided by the city’s planning commission, with authority from the council.

Approach

CFM helped Salem achieve a statutory fix in the 2017 legislative session. Prior to and at the beginning of the session, legislators in the Salem and Happy Valley areas, as well as legislators with a background in land-use, were educated on the issue and asked to sponsor legislation. House Bill 3245 attracted bicameral, bi-partisan support by the time of its introduction.

Stakeholders were identified early and consulted with frequently. The League of Oregon Cities and the Homebuilders Association were supportive of the bills and submitted testimony in support of HB 3245. Originally, land use and environmental advocates had concerns, but CFM worked with the advocates to find common ground and spent several weeks negotiating a solution all parties could accept.

Result

The compromise permitted cities to delegate decisions on comprehensive plan maps in a more limited capacity than counties currently can. The Senate passed the final version of the bill unanimously and the House strongly approved it on a concurrence vote. The Governor signed the bill June 22, 2017 and it will go into effect January 1, 2018.