Of the 12 assignment of error presented by opponents to the Columbia River Crossing in the case Weber Coastal Bells v. Metro, LUBA affirmed 11 of them – a resounding loss for opponents. In its most significant ruling, LUBA found that approving a large proportion of highway improvements along with light rail did not violate a 1996 state statute adopted to authorize a light rail project. LUBA reasoned that the scope of the project under the statute includes “any highway improvements” that are described in the Draft or Final Environmental Impact Statement and these improvements need not be related, required by or connected to the siting of the rail line. LUBA agreed with Metro and other respondents that the highway improvements were “associated” with the light rail component in that it could not have been approved if it did not include a highway component as well.
Where LUBA did remand, it found that Metro erred by relying on the 1996 statute to include within the project that area north of the north shore of Hayden Island and extending to the state boundary, an area that is outside the urban growth boundary (UGB), because the project boundaries are limited by the statute to those within a UGB. Unlike other land use decision, the statute requires that LUBA affirm those portions of a Metro Council Land Use Final Order that it does not remand. Therefore, the project was affirmed but for the small portion which Metro has other means of incorporating into the project.
All other argument relating to lack of detailed findings and substantial evidence regarding impacts to affected neighborhoods were rejected.
This decision is appealable directly to the Supreme Court and must be filed no later than next Wednesday, Nov. 10th.
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