Bill to reduce outsourcing of industrial development will bring jobs to Oregon

by Brian M. Owendoff

My Opinion on Senate Bill 766

Senate Bill 766 (“SB 766”) restores some of the lost balance that has developed in our land use system. The state already has the power to keep local governments from tilting the balance too far toward development and away from conservation.

In 1973, Oregon took a pioneering step in land use planning.  Signed into law on May 29, 1973, Oregon Senate Bill 100 created an institutional structure for statewide planning. It required that every Oregon city and county prepare a comprehensive plan in accordance with a set of general state goals.

While it is often lauded by its proponents as a “model” for the nation, after 38 years no other state has chosen to emulate Oregon’s land-use program.

SB 766 recognizes an imbalance that the original authors of Senate Bill 100 didn’t contemplate; namely, local communities that overemphasize conservation and are willing to outsource industrial development outside Oregon.

This bill authorizes designation of regionally significant industrial areas and establishes a process for expedited permitting of industrial uses within regionally significant industrial areas. It also provides for “standing” in that an individual or group can only oppose if it owns land or property near subject industrial area or opposition is part of homeowners or community group in area of land. This bill does not decrease environmental approvals from an EPA and DEQ standpoint one iota.

This continued imbalance towards conservation and not development has statewide implications in lowering the number and quality of jobs here in Oregon as we continue to fall behind the rest of the country in employment and average income and employment. The Portland Business Alliance recent study on the Portland Region’s Economic Health proved out this reality.

Having lived and developed commercial real estate in other parts of the country, business reality is that “corporate America” doesn’t need Oregon. Oregon is not a vital cog in country’s economic engine. Our State needs a strong, balanced and prosperous economy that is sustainable. There is nothing reckless about SB766.

Former Governor Victor Atiyeh (who was Senate minority leader when Senate 100 was passed) has complained that once LCDC was formed, people forgot the “D” in Land Conservation and DEVELOPMENT Commission. 1000 Friends of Oregon are pursuing a balance effort to restore the original balance in our land use planning system and support SB 766.

This bill isn’t a perfect solution, but unfortunately we don’t have the option of getting in a time machine, going back in time for the onerous approval process that Oregonian’s love before making a decision. If we don’t have an adequate supply of industrial lands to accommodate the next round of economic expansions that are likely to occur in the next 3-to-5 years, no one will wait for us. The jobs will go elsewhere.

As the market improves, those parts of the country that can provide a facility solution in the fastest timeframe will grow jobs faster than those that cannot meet market timing.

The old saying in real estate is “location, location, location”.  Reality is the most important factor in real estate is market timing.  Those with the fastest feet and right product will have success in attracting and retaining companies that create living wage jobs.  More jobs mean more taxpayers.  More taxpayers will result in more money to fund schools, important environmental projects, infrastructure for auto, bike & rail and needed job training programs to decrease Oregon’s 10% unemployment rate.

The intent of Senate Bill 100, was that land designated for various urban uses inside urban growth boundaries has to be genuinely available for those uses if the rest of the state is going to be reserved for agriculture, forest, and other rural uses. That was the understanding that made our land use program possible. It is backed by decisions of Oregon’s courts, the Land Conservation and Development Commission, and the Land Use Board of Appeals, which have all rejected local attempts to double-count land for buffering or mitigation as part of a city’s supply of land “available” for industry, housing, or highways. Double-counting urban lands is not only dishonest; it is self-defeating, because it increases the need to expand urban growth boundaries onto rural farm and forestlands.

Sensible sustainability, social equity and wealth creation do not have to be mutually exclusive.