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Oregon Editors Say

Land-use laws need an update

One-size-fits-all planning doesn't offer the best management policy

The (La Grande) Observer

The 2005 Legislature produced a mixed bag of results. The assembly will be remembered most for what it failed to address ' Measure 37, stabilizing school funding and setting up a real rainy day fund. That's not to say, however, that the Legislature was a complete flop.

On the plus side, the 2005 Legislature did manage to approve some bills addressing Oregon's meth problem, including groundbreaking legislation to require prescriptions for cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine. Too, it set up a commission to review Oregon's land-use laws.

Regardless of whether the establishment of the commission was a sincere attempt to provide a review of laws that have virtually gone unchecked for 30 years, or whether it was simply an outgrowth of the assembly's failure to address Measure 37, the review commission is a good idea.

Land-use planning is to Oregon what the beach and bottle bills are ' legislation that generally has made a difference in the quality of life here and a big reason why people still want to move here. But after 30 years, it is time for review. Time for fine-tuning. Time to bring Oregon's land-use laws in sync with a 21st century-economy and the differences that exist between various regions of the state.

— The existing land-use law requires counties and municipalities to undergo periodic review to update their comprehensive land-use plans. Yet, the law itself has had no periodic review. In fact, it's had no review at all. Hence, Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 37 in November 2004.

As Oregonians noted in the vote on Measure 37, one-size-fits-all planning doesn't necessarily provide the best management of our farm and forest lands. Nor will Measure 37, which already is opening the floodgates to haphazard and potentially conflicting development unless governments can compensate landowners for their lost value. Considering Oregon's financial situation, that isn't going to happen.

Oregon has to fine-tune its land-use planning system ' keeping the best components and amending the issues that led Oregonians to pass Measure 37. Fairness and regional differences have to be brought into the system.

Oregon legislatures have failed to address the issues. They've failed to provide the oversight that is supposed to be their mission. Today's legislators don't have the guts to address volatile issues or the wherewithal to come up with anything better.

At the very least, the 2005 Legislature recognized its own shortcomings and that something has to be done. Shuffling the issue off to a commission that is specifically charged with reviewing land-use policy is better than waiting for another initiative to hit the ballot.

The time for a review of Oregon's land-use planning system is long overdue. And periodic review, say every 10 years or so, wouldn't be a bad idea either.