Yesterday, after three years of planning, followed by four years of state review and litigation, the Oregon Court of Appeals sent the Portland Metro Urban and Rural Reserve decision back to LCDC, Metro, and the three Metro counties, for another round of planning and local decision making, followed by another round of LCDC review, and litigation.
Ironically, the intent of the Urban and Rural Reserve process is to create more certainty about the location of future expansions to the Metro UGB. See ORS 195.139 and OAR 660-027-0005(2). Today, after more than seven years of hard work, supported by millions of dollars of public and private investment, the location of future Metro UGB expansions, and the validity of the most recent Metro UGB amendment, remain uncertain.
While it may be that a few more months of hard work at the local and regional level will bring this process to a close, it is much more likely that a few more years, rather than a few months, will be necessary to bring the Metro Urban and Rural Reserve process across the finish line. That is so because what is left to do is much more than mere process, just as the last 7 years was much more than mere planning. Fundamental decisions concerning the justification for urban reserves throughout Washington County, and in the Stafford Basin in Clackamas County, are at stake and will need to be revisited. The outcome of these decisions can and likely will affect the entire Urban and Rural Reserve decision. Under the existing rules, these “nuanced” decisions require important legal, factual and policy decisions to be made, which in turn require a significant amount of time and effort to be reinvested in the process, as will LCDC’s review and subsequent appeals. Meanwhile, Metro’s most recent UGB decision remains on hold, while Metro’s Urban and Rural Reserve decision slowly continues down the path of “progress”.
Over the next few days, the Oregon legislature will wrestle with HB 4078. This bill could be used to validate Metro’s most recent UGB decision. With or without HB 4078, the Portland metro area needs a process to rationally make final Urban and Rural Reserve and UGB decisions more quickly, because after seven years and counting, justice delayed is justice denied.