The metronome of regional land use planning went full-tilt back to the left Thursday, as state regulators sent parts of the region's groundbreaking reserves plan back for further review.
In a four hour hearing Thursday, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission decided against using a new state law to "clean up" parts of the reserves plan, instead directing Metro, Multnomah County and Clackamas County to address issues raised by the Oregon Court of Appeals earlier this year themselves.
The reserves plan was adopted in 2010 as a way to streamline urban growth boundary expansions in the Portland region. Areas designated by Metro and the counties as urban reserves would be the areas first targeted for UGB expansions through at least 2050. Areas designated as rural reserves would be off the table for UGB expansions in that same timeframe.
Several parties sued to stop the plan, saying it was either too restrictive or too generous with its reserve designations, or that certain designations didn't meet the legal criteria required under state law.
That was the case in the Stafford area of Clackamas County, where the cities of Tualatin and West Linn sued to stop an urban reserve designation there. The cities argued that Metro and the county had not provided enough evidence that roads in Clackamas County could handle development of the Stafford area.
Another appeal, regarding an area designated as rural reserves near Forest Park in Multnomah County, was also upheld in court.
Shortly after the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in favor of several legal challenges to the reserves plan, including the Stafford appeal, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that finalized the reserves designations in Washington County. The law, passed as part of House Bill 4078, also had a provision that let LCDC deal with the remainder of the successful appeals – if the commission chose to do so.
Roger Alfred, a Metro land use attorney who was at the hearing Thursday, said Oregon Department of Justice attorney Steve Shipsey told LCDC that the most legally defensible option would be to remand the reserves cases back to Metro and Clackamas and Multnomah counties.
"Although DLCD staff and commissioners agreed that Metro and Multnomah County had presented good arguments in favor of LCDC’s ability to use its authority under HB 4078 to make its own decision on remand, he (Shipsey) described that as a riskier approach legally, noting that counsel for West Linn and Tualatin testified that they would definitely appeal such a decision back to the Court of Appeals," Alfred said.
Commissioners, Alfred said, expressed an interest in having a resolution to the reserves plan by October.
If the discussions about reserves are limited to the two areas remanded by LCDC – Area 9D near Forest Park in Multnomah County and the Stafford area in Clackamas County, a quick turnaround might be possible.
"The only areas that are called into question are the Stafford area and Area 9D," Alfred said. "The other areas are valid, and the only ones that are open to question are Stafford and 9D."
But two of the appellants on the Stafford plan were brothers Chris and Tom Maletis, who own the Langdon Farms Golf Club south of Wilsonville. Their area was designated by Clackamas County and Metro as a rural reserve.
They asked LCDC to remand the reserves, in their entirety, back to Metro, presumably in hopes of getting Langdon Farms out of rural reserves and into contention for future UGB expansions.
Clackamas County also asked that LCDC remand the entirety of the reserves package back to Metro so that more urban reserves could be added.
"The county also finds that a remand is necessary so that Metro and the counties can address what effect the removal of net acreage of land designated urban reserve in Washington County as a result of H.B. 4078 has on the 'amount of land' and 'best achieves standard," the county wrote in its filing.
But the entire package may not end up coming back.
"Their (LCDC's) verbal direction, at the close of the hearing, was that (DLCD) staff should prepare an order … that says it's remanded to Metro and the counties for the purpose of addressing Stafford and Area 9D and not any other areas," Alfred said.
That order, Alfred said, could come as soon as next week.