By Steve Shropshire
The 72nd Oregon Legislative Assembly convened on January 13, 2003 with the Republican Party in control of the House of Representatives and both parties sharing power in the evenly divided Senate. Against this backdrop, the House and Senate legislative committees have been busy holding hearings on bills introduced in the first few weeks of the session. Included within this group are several bills that would make changes to Oregon's land use system.
Several potentially significant bills have already been introduced. Space only permits the detailed description of two of the bills. However, basic information for the other bills is also provided below.
In October 2002, the Oregon Supreme Court struck down Ballot Measure 7 on constitutional grounds. Measure 7, passed in the 2000 general election, would have required governments to compensate landowners if regulations caused their property values to decrease. HB 2137 is a follow-on bill to Measure 7, and is patterned closely after Measure 7. After holding initial public hearings in early February, the House Environment and Land Use Committee established two work groups to address the primary issues raised by the bill. There are signs that this process may develop into a broader discussion regarding complaints with the lack of flexibility in Oregon's land use system.
House Bill 2369 would change the test that local governments use to determine whether a rural landowner may build a dwelling on high-value farmland. Currently a landowner may only locate a dwelling on high-value farmland if the parcel meets an $80,000 gross income test. In contrast, HB 2369 proposes a "capability test" under which local jurisdictions would analyze soil capability, parcel size, and adjacent agricultural operations. Proponents claim this test would add needed flexibility to the rural land use laws. Opponents claim it would encourage undesirable development that would interfere with agricultural operations. The bill received two public hearings before the House Environment and Land Use Committee in early February, and at the time of publication of this article, was scheduled for a future committee work session.
Other land use related bills of note include:
- HB 2100 — Requires local governments to provide 20-year land supply for high technology industry.
- HB 2187 — Requires urban renewal revenues to be categorized as general government property taxes for purposes of constitutional limitation on property taxes.
- SB 0251 — Applies provisions related to needed housing within urban growth boundaries to cities outside a metropolitan service district with a population of fewer than 25,000.
- SB 0254 — Removes the provision providing that school capacity cannot be the sole basis for approval or denial of a residential development application.
- SB 0257 — Limits requirements for expedited land divisions to qualified land divisions within metropolitan service districts.
Tracking information for all of these bills can be found on the Oregon legislature's web site at http://www.leg.state.or.us/searchmeas.html.
Based on this early flurry of activity in the land use area, it is likely that there will be considerable additional activity during the 2003 session. Provided these proposals can survive an equally divided Senate and a legislature preoccupied with statewide economic problems, Oregon's land use system may be in for some changes. Stay tuned.