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In 2007, when the legislature established a system for designating urban and rural reserves, many observers saw the reserve process as a panacea to deal with the contentious process of changing the Portland Metro urban growth boundary (UGB). Under the urban reserve process, identifying urban land needs based on a 50-year projection rather than the historic 6-year cycle for changing the UGB, lands designated urban reserve would stand in the queue prioritized for inclusion in the UGB when expansion was appropriate. Similarly, land within any rural reserve was off-limits for consideration within the UGB within that same 50-year planning period.

HLA+logo+design+finalHousing Land Advocates (HLA) recently filed an appeal in the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) against the City of Happy Valley in opposition to a comprehensive plan amendment and zone change. The application requested a downzone from multi-family to a single-family residential zone and approval of a 31-lot subdivision. The substantive issue in the case is whether the City made adequate Goal 10 findings related to the availability of land for affordable housing with the City (no such findings were made by the Planning Commission). The City of Happy Valley filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming that HLA did not exhaust its local appeal remedies prior to filing the appeal. However, HLA had submitted a detailed letter explaining that no local appeal was required for a comprehensive plan amendment because state law requires the local governing body – in this case the City Council – to make a final decision. HLA declined the City’s offer to pay a $1000 appeal fee and $2500 deposit for the City’s attorney’s fees to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council. The City Council did not respond to HLA’s letter and the LUBA appeal followed.

The procedure for initiating and prosecuting a condemnation is set forth in Chapter 35 of the Oregon Revised Statutes. Once the condemnation lawsuit is filed, the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure ("ORCP") typically control. However, there are potential traps lurking in the gray areas where the condemnation statute and the ORCPs converge. A condemning authority and property owner fell into such a trap in Washington County v. Querbach, 275 Or App 897 (2015).

800px-Scappoose_Industrial_Airpark_OregonScappoose, Oregon, located right off Highway 30, has only 6,800 residents. Its motto is “A place to grow.” This expected growth was the subject of a recent court of appeals case, Zimmerman v LCDC, 274 Or App 512 (2015). In 2011, the city enacted an ordinance amending its comprehensive plan, hoping to add more land to its UGB designating much of it for industrial and commercial uses, particularly for airport employment uses. To expand a UGB pursuant a Goal 14, a local government must establish that land is needed to further future economic opportunities; determining such need requires compliance with Goal 9 and implementing administrative rules. In order to justify such expansion, a local government must compare the demand for industrial and employment lands against the existing supply, through a review of the “best available” information considering national, regional or local trends, site characteristics of expected uses and development potential. OAR 660-009-0015.

Public meetingFor those practicing in the land use field, there is always a concern about how decisions get made and, in particular, what communication occurs behind closed doors.  The Oregon Public Meetings Law is clear that all decisions must be made in a public meeting, but public officials may sometimes meet in groups of less than a quorum to discuss their perspectives.  The Court of Appeals issued a decision last month that will require local governments to reconsider such conversations.

A jury awarded the Modera Hotel $756,000 for diminution in value to the hotel property for TriMet’s action in closing an access onto the city street for expansion of its light rail through downtown Portland. The case is unusual because closure of an access by a condemning authority is usually considered to fall under the condemning authority’s “police power,” that is to promote public safety, and is not generally a constitutional taking that results in compensation to the property owner. However, the Hotel was able to rely on a city ordinance that provides that when a City or Mass Transit restricts the use of a street traffic lane adjacent to a commercial property the City or Mass Transit shall be liable for and pay the difference between the fair market value of the property prior to the restriction and after the restriction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the jury award.

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