Oregon Court Land Use Decision is a lesson in overreach and an opportunity for a better vision.

by Allen Amabisca of Washington County, Oregon. Allen is a candidate for Washington County Commission Chair. He recently retired from Intel, where he worked in finance and accounting, and he has been actively involved in civic issues for years as a member of the Hillsboro School Board and an officer with a local farmland conservation group. He lives in unincorporated Washington County with his wife Cherry.

Today, in the State's biggest land use decision in recent memory, the Oregon Court of Appeals released their order to reverse and remand the overreaching, sprawl-promoting land use plan that my opponent helped craft.

This is a big win for the people of Washington County, and the entire state of Oregon. It is a lesson to current county leadership that aggressive policy dictation, without meaningful citizen participation or regard for the laws of the State of Oregon, is not only a massive waste of taxpayer money and time, but it is also embarrassing and illegal.

I know not everyone is a land use wonk like me, so let me back up and explain the context for this decision.

Here in Oregon, we have a comprehensive set of land use laws that require the counties, in cooperation with the local and regional governments, to go through a public process every five years in order to designate which land can be developed in the future, and which land must be reserved for farming and agricultural uses.

It seems pretty straightforward, but there are a number of factors that are required to go into this decision, from the fertility of the soil - because we want the best soil to be reserved for farming - all the way to the inclusiveness of the process - because we want a land use plan that reflects the values of all Oregonians, not just those who can afford lobbyists.

Basically, today’s court ruling declared that Washington County used "pseudo" (read: arbitrary) factors to decide which land could developed, and so the court sent everything back to the county level to be re-done using a legal and inclusive process.

This is not only a victory for the people who live and work in Washington County and the entire state of Oregon, but for our democratic process. Today, a warning signal was fired loud and clear that the leadership of Washington County and officials statewide should heed: When you aggressively overreach, there are consequences. When you ignore the law and the voices of your constituents, you are not only being disrespectful, but you are wasting our time and our dollars on avoidable, lengthy legal battles.

The cost of sprawl is no longer affordable. We cannot afford more congestion. We cannot afford blank check developer tax breaks that siphon taxpayer dollars away from programs and services that benefit our small businesses and our citizens. We cannot afford the destruction of our high value farmland that powers Oregon’s second largest industry - agriculture. And we certainly cannot afford a process that marginalizes businesses, workers, families, farmers, and regular citizens in favor of a select few, big-moneyed interests.

Our local economy needs a leader that will involve small businesses and the community to create a plan that promotes all of our industries - agriculture, manufacturing, and housing. Today’s court decision is a bold call for such new leadership, and when elected I pledge to craft a 50-year vision for our region that truly promotes balanced growth while protecting our high value farmland.

Together we can make a plan for Washington County, and Oregon, that we can be proud of.

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