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Springfield's Metro Plan split advances.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

SALEM - Over the objections of Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, a Senate panel on Tuesday backed a plan that would allow Springfield officials to pursue city expansion without first obtaining approval from Eugene's City Council.

After a public hearing that included testimony from 18 speakers - including Piercy and Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken - the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-1 in favor of recommending the full Senate's approval of House Bill 3337.

The proposal would give Eugene and Springfield separate urban growth boundaries, ending a long-standing arrangement in which the two cities share management of a single boundary encircling the entire metro area. Under the current setup, neither city can significantly expand its portion of the boundary without the other's permission.

The bill would require both cities to complete separate residential land supply and demand studies within two years of the law's effective date. That's an aspect of the plan to which a majority of Eugene city councilors object. Springfield's council, on the other hand, already has launched an investigation into the adequacy of its city's land supply.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, was the only committee member to vote against the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Terry Beyer and Sen. Bill Morrisette, both Democrats who live in Springfield. The Oregon House last month voted 50-5 to send the proposal to the Senate.

Calling the plan "terribly misguided," Piercy testified that the proposed law would cost Eugene money that it is not prepared to spend on a study designed to determine how much buildable land would be needed in the city to accommodate 20 years worth of new housing.

The Eugene City Council earlier this year voted 5-4 against initiating a land study. That decision prompted the Oregon Home Builders Association - which first gained Springfield officials' blessing before doing so - to ask Beyer and Morrisette to sponsor legislation that would force Eugene to complete a study that otherwise would not be required by the state until 2012.

"We have been picked out for a special, unfunded mandate," Piercy said.

Springfield's council ordered its own residential land study last year. The survey is nearly complete, with preliminary results showing that about 1,000 acres should be added to Springfield's buildable land supply to meet the expected housing demand in the city for the next 20 years.

Supporters of the bill say that a shortage of buildable land in the metro area contributes to soaring housing prices and forces first-time homebuyers to search for properties in outlying communities such as Veneta and Cottage Grove.

"Young people can't afford to buy a starter house anymore" in Springfield or Eugene, Springfield Councilor John Woodrow said during Tuesday's hearing.

Testifying in favor of the bill were representatives of the Home Builders Association of Lane County, chambers of commerce in both Eugene and Springfield, and the Eugene Association of Realtors.

Groups opposed to the plan include the Friends of Eugene and 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Anthony Bieda, intergovernmental relations manager for Lane County, testified that county commissioners are against the proposal and would prefer to see the issue settled locally, without resorting to a change in law that splits the urban growth boundary.

`We believe that, ultimately, these issues need to be resolved among (the two cities and the county),' Bieda said.

Since the early 1980s, all three jurisdictions have worked together to establish and update the Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan Area General Plan, which is intended to guide development of the region.

Leiken said Springfield city officials want to continue cooperating with Eugene and the county on the Metro Plan, but added that he believes that the time has come for his city to maintain its own growth boundary.

`What we're looking for is trying to manage our growth for our future (while) maintaining our regional partnership,' Leiken said.

But the Springfield City Council earlier this week made it clear that it is willing to go its own way, if the proposed legislation ultimately fails. Springfield councilors on Monday voted 6-0 in favor of preparing to withdraw from the Metro Plan if the bill is defeated.

Piercy said she expects the bill will gain favor in the Senate. Leiken said after Tuesday's hearing that he is "cautiously optimistic" that the plan will be approved and signed into law by the governor.
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Title Annotation:Government; A Senate panel approves the city's request to pursue expansion of the urban growth area independently of Eugene
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 23, 2007
Words:719
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