How should we evaluate community impact?

BlueOregon regular and corporate ethics expert Mari Margil has an op-ed in today's Oregonian. She points out that there's currently no mechanism for Oregon communities to evaluate the negative impact of a new business - other than land-use review - and maybe we should:

Yet, currently we don't have the means to look beyond setbacks, stormwater runoff and height requirements in determining whether we want a company to locate here. Whether it's Wal-Mart or anyone else, communities don't have the legal authority to say that a company that discriminates against its own female employees or repeatedly violates the Clean Water Act isn't welcome. But perhaps we should.

There are already cities and towns across the United States that are seeking to make better matches by broadening their decision-making criteria through what's known as "community impact reviews."

From Los Angeles to Greenfield, Mass., to Homer, Alaska, communities are passing ordinances that allow for a more thorough look at proposed developments before they decide to settle down together. They are asking not only whether developments are land-use appropriate, but also whether they make sense for the community's future economic prosperity, taxpayers, workers and the environment.

Go read the rest and discover what eHarmony has to do with land-use planning, Wal-Mart, and the future of Oregon. Only Mari can pull that hat trick off.


  • Varicose Brains (unverified)

    What a fabulous idea! Let's put even more tools in the hands of NIMBYs and no growthers to stop economic activity.

    One can just imagine the process of determining "community impact." Basically a red carpet rolled out to any activist who for whatever reason wants to stop something.

    When are you people going to realize that everyone can't work for the government?

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    One can just imagine the process of determining "community impact."

    Well, actually, presumably the ordinances would identify particular issues. Like an environmental impact statement does.

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    "When are you people going to realize that everyone can't work for the government?" Nothing like a lot of infammatory statements to get our attention and paint everyone with a big ol' black or white brush.

    With population growth projected at 87 percent in Jackson and Josephine counties over the next 20 years careful planning that also supports economic growth is worth loking into. Eugene is the city that blew it recently by refusing to allow Whole Foods to set up shop because it would compete with Market of Choice, a small Eugene based grocery store chain.

    Living wage jobs are the key to healthy growth. Amy"s Kitchen is a month away from opening it's organic production plant. Hundreds and hundreds of job applicants attended their job fairs. Most of us know Ted Kulongoski personally intervened in bringing that business into Southern Oregon, beating out Arnolds feeble attempt to keep Amy's in California. The point is, lots of old Hippees down in these parts are shrewd business people. There's the biker who turned his motorcycle skills into producing fabulous ceiling fans sold in the Pearl. There's the small bead company from Cave Junction now making millions of dollars with their large production facility in Grants Pass used by jewlery makers world wide. There's the relocation of a major roofing company from the midwest to Grants Pass putting skilled workers in good paying jobs. Most businesses will easily meet economic, environmental and community needs. Many of us have problems with sweat shop produced goods sold at Wal-Mart and we have emphathy for folks who depend on the Wal-Mart type businesses for lower price points.

    I'll keep an open mind regarding Mari Margill's Op-Ed piece.

  • Dan J (unverified)

    I wonder how many of you anti-business libs will take this law to persecute Intel, the largest employer of left wing wack jobs in the state.

    Do you realize the enormous enviro impact the Intel has on the portland community?

    Are any of you aware of the amount of water that Intel uses?

    Do some research. I think you'll be shocked.

    By imposing this benchmark evenly, you will effectively end all new tech production plants in the metro area as they will all fail.

    You'll replace highly compt tech workers with people making bead-art in the Pearl.


  • BlueNote (unverified)

    This is a terrible idea. Let's say that B Industries wants to relocate to Lake Oswego from NE Portland. Say they employ a lot of minorities. Do you want the government of Lake Oswego to be able to exclude B Industries from their city because of an expected "adverse community impact"? Perhaps because B Industries employs too many black people? Or gays? Or liberals?

    I am a Democrat / liberal / progressive / socialist, but I strongly believe that trying to control our economy on a regional or national basis by legislating who can or cannot open an otherwise legal business enterprise is a very bad idea. Raise taxes on businesses that don't offer benefits. Give tax credits to progressive businesses who offer living wage jobs and full benefits. Give tax credits for hiring folks who would not otherwise get jobs. Enforce labor laws that permit union organizing at all businesses. But please DO NOT put the power to determine who can or cannot open a business into the hands of the usual empty headed city / county government officials.

  • blizzak (unverified)

    how about this -- if the community doesn't like a business, they shouldn't shop there.

  • KISS (unverified)

    Believe it on not, I sit on a planning commission and I'm quite aware of business influence, and land use laws. Business does not worry about impact...only what is good for business. Supreme court decisions have allowed corporation exempt from morality issues and a lot of environmental issues, as well. We have little tools to use for the benefit of citizens but we try. I have seen downright lies made by business people and have been threaten by hi power engineers and architects. Industry is under very little obligations to be good citizens, a status most enjoy. Chip makers do use an extraordinary amount of water and bargain for obscene rates. The citizens pick up the tab for the infrastructure for these chip makers. Already the city of Portland is in a bind for more water.Can Portland afford to sell more water to chip plants? But we all know about influence and politics, don't we?

  • ws (unverified)

    Dude, in case you hadn't noticed, we are the government. All those government officials work for us, but they can only do so much, and that, as we see all too often, not always so well. Involvement in the planning process by ordinary citizens is not and should not be a matter of arbitrarily controlling what businesses may locate in state, city or neighborhood as much as it should be a matter of carefully screening businesses for the contribution to the quality of life we hope to sustain in those places.

    For such a long time, the planning process has customarily relied on a passive public that largely has left planning decisions up to officials, money and power. While not all bad, that system of planning has created some very scary conditions today.

    Now whenever a contingent from the rank and file pipes up to critique the flaws in plans to welcome businesses that may perpetuate such ill conditions, those from the long standing planning process dismiss these efforts as efforts to kill economic growth and personally evade the burden it may represent to their property.

    That's just not true. Increasingly as we go into the future, each individual citizen has to be encouraged to take responsibility for the livability of their surroundings by voicing their opinions in the variety of ways this is possible in our society.

    Ordinances and Community Impact Reviews that place the character and practices of incoming businesses under greater scrutiny can provide them with one more potentially effective tool with which to do this. People are not questioning the arrival of businesses like WalMart as a means of depriving other people of jobs, a great deal on products, or from racial motivation. They do so because some businesses like WM have shown themselves to be a plague on humanity and society that ultimately look to diminish the quality of life for everyone.

    I'm not exactly sure I see how Eugene blew it by declining to allow Whole Foods to enter into competition with the local grocery store chain. Seems as though the local chain is highly regarded, and as a result, will grow better and stronger by not losing a market share to this bigger corporation.

    In regards to the electronics industry; Thirty years ago, such businesses were perceived as the clean answer to the state's economic woes. Look what we have allowed those businesses to do to our state. We gave them cheap land, upon which they proceeded to build acres and acres of land wasting single story, rather than multiple story buildings for their operations.

    These businesses generated huge population growth that has resulted in enormous sprawl due to the fact that developers were permitted to continue the practice of building single family dwellings for the purpose of housing this growth. Oregon was a far different place back then; less populated, more indifferent to the whims of government officials and business interests than it is today.

    Had there been a greater level of citizen involvement in planning back then, the electronics industry might still have been allowed to locate here, but the confuration, pardon the expression, might have been more favorable to Oregon’s livability and future than it is today. The change in public mode via the ordinances and Community Impact Reviews described in Margil's article looks good for Oregon’s future.

  • Jesse (unverified)

    Already the city of Portland is in a bind for more water.Can Portland afford to sell more water to chip plants?

    <h2>Who told you that? It's hardly dire on the supply side--it's the wastewater and stormwater issues we ought to worry about.</h2>
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