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Oregon’s Planning Goal 1, Citizen Involvement, requires citizen involvement “in all phases of the land use planning process.” The Goal requires local governments to provide for public input when land use plans and regulations are adopted and amended. Oregon law also requires, among other things, notice and opportunity to be heard during land use proceedings. Although one of the original land use goals, Goal 1 is rarely used or relied on by LUBA or the courts as a basis to overturn a local government decision; however, efforts to change its scope are constant. Oregon and Washington courts have recently had an opportunity to consider some creative efforts to alter the scope of public participation.

Kerns v. Pendleton marks a historic step for Oregon and the nation.  In 1979, the Oregon Legislature created the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) as an administrative body, which had “exclusive jurisdiction” over most land use decisions of local governments.  Until this time, Oregon and other states gave that role to local trial courts.  However, with the passage of a coordinated state system of land use planning and regulation in 1973, courts were less familiar with the bevy of rules and statutes that were now applicable to local planning.  Moreover, those courts were also faced with giving priority to speedy trials in criminal cases, particularly for defendants who were incarcerated.  Additionally, the development community pressed for a system that was speedy and more certain.

LUBA’s creation was a four-year trial of a new system in which persons dissatisfied by a local government (and sometimes a state agency) land use decision was required to appeal that decision in 30 days, unlike the 60 days that had been the previous timeline.  Unlike trial courts, LUBA had time limits to decide appeals and its decisions were appealable to the Oregon Court of Appeals.  The original members of the Board were Michael Reynolds, a former Assistant Attorney General and previous counsel to the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), John Bagg, a former local government attorney, and William Cox, who had represented development interests in private practice.

Carter Kerns was one of three neighbors (together “Petitioners”) who appealed Pendleton’s decision to annex and rezone a 22-lot subdivision on 12.36 acres on several grounds: violation of the statewide planning goals, unlawful procedures and violation of an administrative rule adopted by LCDC that limited annexations of land prior to acknowledgment of the City’s plan (i.e. certification that its plan and land use regulations complied with the statewide planning goals).

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