Commissioners and judges from eight eastern Oregon counties met Wednesday on a proposal to modify Land Use Planning processes in counties with no population growth (SB 432).

In a meeting convened by Senate Minority leader Ted Ferrioli Wednesday afternoon, Judge Gary Thompson, Commissioners Boyd Britton, Joe Dabulskis, Bill Harvey (in person) and Judges Dan Joyce and Steve Shaffer, plus Commissioners Mark Owens and Susan Roberts, (via phone) met with Governor Brown, Senate President Courtney, Senate Majority Leader Burdick, Speaker Kotek, and Assistant House Republican Leader Bentz. AOC staff Mike McArthur and Mike Eliason were present along with Dave Hunnicut of Oregonians in Action and Rich Angstrom of Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association and other staff.

The group discussed the problems faced by counties with stagnate or declining populations with a focus on the ways that Oregon’s land use system hinders development opportunities. Senate Bill 432 would allow rural counties with no population growth to adopt comprehensive land use plans without complying with the statewide land use planning goals.

County representatives gave examples of economic development opportunities prevented or lost because of state land use regulations. Senator Ferrioli described the State of Washington’s plan under the Growth Management Act which provides greater flexibility to 10 Eastern Washington counties. He observed that those counties seem to be realizing more prosperity than comparable counties in Oregon.

Governor Brown cited efforts through Regional Solutions, water planning, housing programs for cities under 25,000, the proposed Ontario transload hub and regulatory reform as examples of state efforts to assist rural counties. She expressed concerns about how this legislation could affect the sage grouse recovery efforts. Commissioner Owens assured all that counties would not allow development that would threaten the sage grouse plan.

Senator Courtney acknowledged that “one size does not fit all” for planning purposes and that he was studying maps of the counties in question. Speaker Kotek said “she was willing to look at the bill.” Discussions will continue to find a workable path to move the bill across the finish line this session.

Contributed by: Mike McArthur, AOC Executive Director