As a planning director for Linn County, Ore., for 13 years (1981-94) I felt a responsibility to respond to Rebecca Clarren’s article, "Planning’s poster child grows up" (HCN, 11/25/02: Planning's poster child grows up). There are a few inaccuracies; however, I found the article to be well-balanced. On the whole, the planning program in Oregon has been working well. The success is most apparent when comparing the magnitude of urban sprawl in Oregon with what one sees in the other states in the West.
The problems we are experiencing in Oregon result in part from solutions that are overly prescriptive and come from extensive and complex rules and laws promulgated by the Land Conservation and Development Commission and by the Oregon state Legislature. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, agricultural lands rules were developed largely on a statewide basis and were placed on the ground without sufficient consideration of the incredible variety of circumstances occurring over the state. The implementation of the state laws and rules in their current form results in many unfair sets of circumstances. Urban growth boundaries are also hard to amend due to the complexity of the rules that apply to the process.
Although I am not in the middle of the land-use process today, I am concerned about the future of the program. The state needs to concentrate on providing oversight of local planning and a policy framework related to issues that are clearly statewide in nature, similar to the concentration on agricultural preservation and urban-growth containment that were the focal points of the program in the early years. However, many land-use decisions need to be made at the local level, where there should be more flexibility in decision-making that is sensitive to local people and circumstances.
Marvin E. Gloege