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Don't use a cookie cutter for land use laws
Published August 25, 2004
Home ownership is part of the American dream and some people feel that their piece of the dream is under threat from land use laws that restrict what people can do with property they own. They also feel it's a threat to creating jobs.
For nearly three decades, Oregon has been in the forefront of increasing land use regulations. During the 1970s, such agencies as the Department of Land Conservation and Development, the Land Conservation and Development Commission and the Land Use Board of Appeals came into being. All of these were aimed at creating, enforcing and adjudicating land use laws.
The aim, broadly put, was to preserve a livable Oregon.
That's a worthy ambition, but something got lost along the way.
Cookie-cutter regulations treated areas the same even when they are totally unalike - Klamath Falls vs. the Portland urban area, for example.
Oregon's land use regulations have been a constant source of complaints, though generally efforts to dismantle the state land use apparatus have failed. That doesn't mean, though, that some complaints aren't valid.
Last Saturday, a panel of speakers in Klamath Falls discussed land use, and what's known as "smart growth," a planning concept that encourages growth within an urban growth boundary, and discourages growth outside of it. Such a policy - and land use regulations in general - became popular in the 1970s effort to preserve farm land being overrun by urban growth.
That danger, though, is a lot bigger in places such as Portland and Salem than it is in places like Klamath Falls and Lakeview. But the rules are the same in all places.
What's known in some places as ugly urban sprawl is the sign of a vigorous economy in others, and Klamath Falls and Lakeview could use more economic growth than they have. That's a small price to pay for more jobs in areas whose unemployment rate is frequently above 10 percent.
At Saturday's meeting, Klamath Falls City Manager Jeff Ball said the problem in Portland is that "smart growth" is being dictated, and that the approach in Klamath Falls is likely to center around presenting options to builders that encourage smart growth without enacting new requirements for developers to meet.
That's the right approach. As long as people live in an area where land isn't in short supply, government shouldn't act as if it is.
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Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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