The 3,500-acre expansion of Brookings Urban Growth Boundary cleared another hurdle Thursday in Salem when the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission voted four to one to accept the expansion, including six remand items.
The city, county and Department of Land Conservation and Development had already signed off on the expansion.
Brookings Planning Director John Bischoff said since objectors had 60 days to ask the commission for a hearing, the city saved time and asked first.
Objectors now have 60 days to appeal the commissions decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals, but former Brookings Mayor Fred Hummel, who has led the fight against the expansion for more than a decade, said an appeal isnt likely.
He said his group, Citizens for Orderly Development, will continue to participate in the process, however, and may challenge the next two steps: approval of the citys public facilities and services plan, and its transportation plan.
Hummel said his group is an affiliate of 1,000 Friends of Oregon, which will also stay in the fight. He said the only option available to the organizations is to participate in public hearings.
Bischoff said the city will ask the land department to combine the next elements into one work task so that the city doesnt have to go through three hearings.
At Thursdays hearing, said Bischoff, the objectors were given 10 minutes to speak, as was Steve Janik, the Portland attorney retained by the city in the case.
He said the objectors once again challenged the citys population projections, while Janik explained that task had already been approved, and explained why the issue shouldnt be reopened.
Hummel said the commission had the prerogative to reopen that issue, but was not mandated to look at it again.
He said if the commission had based its decision on good land use planning instead of a legal point, it would have reexamined population projections.
He said the 2000 census showed the city overestimated its population growth by 63 percent.
He also said Mary Kyle McCurdy, staff attorney for 1,000 Friends of Oregon, said, The population issue infects every other aspect of periodic review (including the boundary expansion).
Bischoff said the city went back 15 years to derive its population growth projection of 3 percent a year.
He said if, in 1993, it had gone back only seven years, as Hummel did to derive his figure, the growth rate would have been 5.5 percent.
Bischoff said population estimates depend on the number of years included and which years, and can vary year by year.
Given that, he said, Brookings has almost exactly the population predicted, and the census showed the majority of growth is taking place in the south county.
Hummel said that after the main presentations, individuals were given three minutes each to testify.
Only objectors and principle parties were allowed to speak. Those included the city and county, but not developers or their attorneys.
Besides city officials, Bischoff said County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer spoke in favor of the boundary expansion.
Schafer said Monday she was glad about the commissions decision.
It is my hope that the city can now get started on developing their Public Facilities Plan that will address water and transportation issues, she said.
Commissioner Cheryl Thorp went to Salem to speak in opposition to the boundary expansion.
Bischoff said Thorp submitted a paper, which was not accepted because she was not a principle. Hummel disagreed and said Thorp signed up to speak and was allowed to do so.
Bischoff said he and Curry County Planning Director Chuck Nordstrom were asked only one question by the commission, which concerned protection of the farms on the Harbor bench.
He said the citys public facilities plan is in hand now, except for the unexpected requirement of an economic, social and environmental analysis of water withdrawal from the Chetco River. He said the city will apply for grant money to do the analysis.
He said the goal of the plan is to curtail water use when the river is low. We dont want to hurt the fishery in the river, said Bischoff. Sports fishing is too crucial to the community.
Hummel was not as optimistic. The impact of the decision will be felt with the people down here, he said.
The 400-acre increase in commercial land, he said, would result in commercial sprawl and bailing out on downtown.
He fears developers will use a loophole in the law to build to rural densities within the boundary if infrastructure like sewer and water is not available.
Hummel said the boundary could quickly fill with large lots, forcing another expansion.
Bischoff said that fear is unfounded. He said the new boundary should contain the next 20 years worth of growth, but if growth occurs more slowly, it will take more years to fill up.
Hummel said the commission had little information when making its decision. It had only a capsule report from the land department director, in which a page and a half of Hummels arguments were reduced to one sentence, he said.
He also said the panel of he, McCurdy, 1,000 Friends staff planner Scott Clay and Brookings citizen Ian Maitland had only 10 minutes total to speak to four of the six remand items.
To make matters worse, said Hummel, two of the most progressive members of the commission were absent. He said the discussion would have been better had they been there.
Hummel said of the one dissenting vote on the commission, Commissioner Gary Harris, an Eastern Oregon rancher, was refreshingly blunt. He said 400 new acres of commercial land for a city this small defied common sense and that he could not vote to support it.
I think we need more ranchers and fewer lawyers on the commission, said Hummel.
As for the future, he said, I think the odds for ultimately prevailing on the UGB, and the future health of our community, are good if we dont throw in the sponge just because we lost the first round.