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Reform of land use law took a broad, cooperative effort.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Ted Kulongoski

This week, I signed into law a major bipartisan accomplishment for Oregon's 35-year-old land use planning program.

House Bill 2229 builds on a unique part of what makes Oregon special for all of us. It provides immediate improvements to our pioneering land use planning system, and it provides a framework for future improvements. Importantly, it does this without the need for new taxpayer funding.

The bill is the result of more than three years of extensive evaluation, outreach and engagement with Oregonians by the 10 citizen members of the Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning: the "Big Look." It's also the result of hard work and cooperation by the Oregon Legislature

The result all came together through a shared belief in a better Oregon, and the support and efforts of a diverse mix of citizens, volunteer task force members and public servants working to lead us to a better future.

When I proposed the idea of this comprehensive review of our land use system in 2005, I said that we needed to reconnect Oregonians with the vision that our land use system represents. I was referring to a true renewal of the vision that began in the early 1970s with our landmark planning law, Senate Bill 100, while recognizing the need to add to that vision to ensure that Oregon is a better place in the future.

To accomplish this, I directed the task force to reach out to thousands of individuals, organizations and everyday citizens to find new ways to improve and update our unique system, while recognizing the value of its fundamental protections for farm and forestlands, and the prevention of unsustainable sprawl.

The task force conducted an extensive public outreach campaign in communities throughout the state that included town hall meetings; newspaper inserts that reached 500,000 Oregonians; statewide opinion polls, a survey of a broad cross-section of Oregonians, print and broadcast media stories; and even a widely distributed 30-minute documentary. Many citizens who never had engaged in a public policy process before became involved in the Big Look. Old divides were healed and new partnerships forged.

House Bill 2229 establishes overarching principles to guide our land use program in the 21st century. It establishes a clear process for counties to correct zoning-map problems on rural lands, including criteria that ensure that new development is sustainable and that natural resources continue to be protected. It revises current law to simplify and encourage more regional planning through a streamlined regional problem-solving approach. It establishes priorities for infrastructure investments in rapidly growing areas. It authorizes a policy-neutral review of land use statutes, goals and rules to reduce complexity. And it encourages mediation of local land use disputes.

The task force also recommended some concepts in its final report that do not require new laws to implement. These recommendations include planning for a vibrant economy, improving citizen participation, and addressing climate change.

These recommendations are now being considered by the Land Conservation and Development Commission.

All of the Big Look recommendations and the final report, are available online at: www .oregonbiglook.org.

The Big Look legislation provides a series of strategic adjustments designed to improve our nationally respected land use program for all Oregonians. Mindful of our state's critical budget challenges, the crucial public policy issues affecting our state's land use system can be addressed now and prioritized for implementation and investment in phases.

This sentiment is stated well in the task force's final report: In this period of substantial economic turmoil, now is the time to lay the foundation for adjusting to our land use system so that the state can continue to create quality communities and a high quality of life.

Ted Kulongoski is governor of Oregon.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 5, 2009
Words:626
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