How "grand" was the "Grand Bargain" ?
Greetings Helvetia friends,
Things have been moving so quickly since our last message to you that we’ve hardly had time to breathe – much less send out an update. Now that we've had some time to reflect, we’d like to share our impressions of recent events.
We’ll give you the short version first, then provide more details. Take a deep breath; here we go with…
The short version
House Bill 4078 was introduced in early February, and most everyone hated it. Rep. Clem started an effort to resolve the reserves issue, which still drew criticism, especially from Washington County and Metro. But then the Court of Appeals slapped down Washington County’s reserves designations. Facing the likelihood of starting over, Washington County and Metro suddenly became a lot more interested in negotiating. Reps. Clem and Unger met with governments, developers, and farmers to work out a plan – the “Grand Bargain” – that converts almost 2500 acres of urban reserves to rural reserves.
This is a victory for Washington County farmland in general, but not so much north of US 26. A lot of land in “western Helvetia” was protected, but almost as much land near Cornelius Pass Road was changed from rural to urban as a gift to high-powered development interests, whose support was needed to gain the bill’s passage. The biggest loser was citizen involvement.
The Legislature intervened because our County leadership was caught breaking the law, not because our land use system failed. The “fix” is to change our leaders, and we have an important opportunity to do so on May 20, when elections will be held for three open positions on the Washington County Board of Commissioners. See below to learn about three candidates who are running to change the fundamental direction of the Board: Allen Amabisca, Elizabeth Furse, and Greg Malinowski.
OK, exhale. And please read on for the details.
HB 4078 initially angered everyone…
As you already know, on February 4, the State Legislature’s House Committee on Rural Communities held hearings on a bill, HB 4078, that would have validated the 2011 Metro UGB expansion, thereby also invalidating any appeals of the UGB expansion. Since much of the expansion was onto newly-designated reserves land, it would also have essentially invalidated appeals of the Reserves designations, including ours.
Uproar ensued, and many of you contacted the Committee to object. Shortly thereafter, Representatives Clem and Unger began an effort to redraw the maps to bring some of that farmland back under rural protection.
…but the Court ruling changed everything.
While we were wary of this effort, the dynamics of the conversation changed dramatically on February 20 when the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Washington County and Metro, saying that the designations were based on “pseudo factors” invented by the County and approved by Metro and LCDC. This ruling validated years of testimony by Save Helvetia farmers and citizen scientists showing exactly how Washington County devised their own system for evaluating farmland, contrary to the law. We applaud the many hours of effective legal work by our attorney Carrie Richter of Garvey Schubert Barer and Mary Kyle McCurdy of 1000 Friends of Oregon.
As a result of the ruling, the politicians who ranted about the legislature taking away local control quickly changed their tune. Seeing that the alternative was to start over with the reserves process, they became a lot more interested in Rep. Clem’s and Rep. Unger’s efforts, displaying an uncharacteristic willingness to listen. It also became clear to us that a train was leaving the station, and if we wanted to have any say in where it was headed, we’d better get aboard.
After several days of discussions culminating on Sunday, February 23, when we finally invited ourselves to the table*, all parties involved (Washington County, Metro, developers, and farmers) reached consensus on new map designations. The result was an amended version of HB 4078 that was passed by the House on February 28th and by the Senate on March 4th. But the Senate re-christened the bill: instead of a “Grand Bargain,” the bill is now known as the “map adjustment consensus bill.” That’s politi-speak for you!
*We can’t resist sharing the scene at the Sunday meeting with you. The large meeting room had tables for the politicians and developers. Save Helvetia representatives were literally sitting on chairs in the corner with our backs to the wall. We were struck by the symbolism. Commissioner Malinoswki came because we had told him what was going on – 600 acres in his district had been converted from rural to urban east of Cornelius Pass Road in exchange for votes, and he was never consulted or made aware of it. When he arrived, he sat in the corner with Save Helvetia – Andy Duyck and Bob Terry were at the table. But since there were already two Commissioners at this non-public meeting, one of them had to go. Andy or Bob decided that it would be Greg. So Greg was told to leave.
Farmland and developers 1, Citizen involvement 0:
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