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Land-Use Case Drags On

A Lane County land-use case, which was first filed in 2011, alleging that the county regularly exceeds deadlines is not yet resolved. Advocacy group LandWatch Lane County is frustrated with the amount of time it is taking to get a final order on the case from the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.

In November 2011, LandWatch notified Lane County of its intention to file an enforcement order with DLCD regarding what the group sees as the county’s “pattern or practice” of exceeding the 150 days allowed for counties to process most land-use applications. According to LandWatch President Bob Emmons, the county’s “repeated failures to meet the processing deadline” exclude neighbors from equal participation in the land-use process. 

Lane County reviewed the order in March 2012 and responded that it has taken various actions to address the issues, and the county argued that the land-use applications that were cited did not meet the definition of a “pattern or practice.”

LandWatch then took the case to the DLCD. Rob Hallyburton, DLCD Community Services Division manager, says this citizen-initiated petition for enforcement “is not a typical thing for us to be working on” or something the agency usually deals with, but that under the law a member of the public can petition for enforcement as LandWatch has done.

Emmons says that delays by Lane County and DLCD have weakened the group’s case, and as he wrote in a Summer 2013 LandWatch newsletter, the delays confirmed “the perception that DLCD subverts the public’s interest by working in collusion with local governments.” Emmons says that under the law only two examples are needed to show a pattern or practice, and LandWatch submitted 47 cases to DLCD, 13 of which he says were deemed inadmissible due to the delays.

“We aren’t anti-government by any means,” says Lauri Segel-Vaccher of LandWatch, but she says that DLCD is not living up to its principles, and this is affecting efforts to protect land in Lane County. 

In March 2013 the Land Conservation and Development Commission held a hearing on the issue, and now in 2014 Segel-Vaccher says a final order, which would allow LandWatch to move to the next step in the Court of Appeals, if it chose to do so, has yet to be issued.

Hallyburton says that the current status of the case “is we are still working on it.” He adds, “This case is pretty complicated and has some issues that requires us to work closely with our legal counsel,” which is the Oregon Department of Justice. He says the agency is lacking the “ability and time to work on it” and on other orders as well, which he says can take six months to a year to come out. “We don’t want to take that long and we don’t feel good about it,” he says, citing a lack of resources. 

Emmons writes that after the commission hearing, “It was clear to the three of us who had traveled to Salem with the expectation of a fair hearing that DLCD exists to facilitate the grasping wastrels of the land and their enablers, not the needs of the environment and community.”