Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Can't add much to this. Well done. There are hearings scheduled on this issue for next week (2/10) as well, where you can and should come to make sure legislators understand that there are plenty of people who support Oregon's land use planning and who don't want to see the developers win out through a "divide and conquer" strategy executed county-by-county.
House Land Use Committee
Representative Mary Nolan, Chair
453 Oregon State Capitol
Salem OR 97301

RE: HB 2229

Dear Representative Nolan, Members of the House Land Use Committee:

House Bill 2229 represents the recommendations of the "Big Look" task force. The 2005 Legislature enacted legislation directing the Big Look to examine Oregon's land use system was an effort to reconcile the deep divisions that exist among Oregonians regarding land use. The scope of its work was germane in 2005, but was quickly overtaken by events: Measure 49, an upsurge recognizing the need to address the human impact on global warming, and the current economic crisis. What seemed farsighted in 2005 turns out to be shortsighted in today's environment.

It is idealistic to assume that the legislature can bridge the land use chasm. Oregonians are divided between those who see land almost as chattel -- theirs in the same sense as an automobile or toaster -- and those who see the land ownership as a grant from the state, a grant with strings attached.

Though I am one who thinks the work of the task force came down to a solution in search of a problem, I do want to point to the parts of this bill that I believe have value and represent the direction the legislature ought to take.

The Overarching Principles

Some have stated that these are too general to have any legal force. On the contrary, I understand them in much the same way as I read the opening words of the Constitution, or of the Declaration. They form the framework for a common understanding that seeks to bridge the chasm.

The fourth principle, to insure equity and fairness to all Oregonians recognizes that the interests of all Oregonians drives land use policies throughout Oregon. Though I live in Marion County, what happens in Wallowa County or Curry County affects me as a citizen of Oregon. I understand it to clearly state that I can participate in land use decisions in Klamath County as much as I can here in Salem.

I urge you to retain these principles. As stated, these principles provide guidance and constraint in the land use decision-making process. They apply, frame, and restrict what county commissions can do and also substantially assist in framing debates, now and in the future. If they do no more than to frame the debate by diminishing the destructive debate over property "rights" they will serve a useful purpose.

Counties and Regional Definitions

Oregon is a geographic entity; counties are administrative anomalies, carved out over time. Their shape and size represents political decisions made over a period of decades. One has only to walk around the fountain in front of the Capitol to understand that counties are the works of politics, not nature.

To permit a coalition of counties to alter land use decisions affecting the entire state is to justify Balkanization of the state. Land use decisions are local, but the impact of these decisions is statewide. Sub-state definitions are myopic because they assume that what happens in Curry County stays in Curry County. That is false.

The nature of the land surface is the product of climate, soil, ecology, and of the environment. Counties are administrative districts, of which land is merely a component.

The public policy implicit in Sections 5-8 effectively creates new forms of governance and diminishes the impact Oregonians have on what Oregon is.

Not everything in Sections 5-8 is bad. The guidelines in Section (6)(4) (page 5, line 10) should be requirements placed upon the commission, as well as all political subdivisions. All land use decisions should consider these factors -- at all levels of governance. The standards set out in Section 7(5) should also be incorporated as decision framing requirements for all jurisdictions.

Section 17 requires cities to annex lands within the UGB. This is unnecessary and to my mind encourages the very sprawl our land use system is intended to constrain.


I have been deeply concerned with the manner in which the task force operated. I am especially concerned that assertions unsupported by evidence have taken on a degree of truth to which they are not entitled. The task force has become persuaded that Oregon will grow dramatically, but at no point in their proceedings was the extent of this growth ever documented. This enabled an unjustified sense of urgency and crisis; at a time when far more serious crises should cause us to refocus our energies on preserving and enhancing Oregon's agricultural and forest capacity.

There exists a deep suspicion of county government among many Oregonians. Some of these concerns have been brought before this committee. These concerns about permitting local government to decide land use issues using sub-state criteria share common themes - the more local the governance, the less transparent the process; the more local the governance, the greater the opportunity for abuse; the more local the governance, the greater the chance for decisions that, while clothed the mantle of openness, are in truth arbitrary; it is easier to hide at Council or Commission level than it is at an agency or legislative level.

The evaluation measures set out in Section 5-8 attempt to address these concerns; evaluation measures that should be adopted, but without creating sub-state regulations. Plants, soils, wildlife, as well as people and what they do, where they work, and where they live do not recognize counties, except as governmental jurisdictions created to carry out what the legislature delegates to them.

We should not grant to counties the ability to make decisions that have statewide impact. Land use issues are the last issue that should be left to the myopia of county commissioners.

Richard van Pelt
Update below: More on the sad results of the "Big Look" Task Force -- which looks increasingly like an attempt to make the Big Grab at forest and farmland -- precisely the land which is becoming more and more vital to our future as is.

Join us next Tuesday, February 10th in Salem when the House Land Use Committee will hold the *final public hearing on the Big Look Task Force proposed legislation (HB 2229). The public hearings are scheduled from 3-4pm and from 6-8pm.

The task force has made several proposed changes to Oregon's land use planning program. Some changes we support, including a plan to have key state agencies develop an integrated strategic plan to coordinate land use, transportation and economic development efforts.

Unfortunately, the task force has focused much of their effort on a controversial proposal to allow counties to develop new criteria to redefine farm and forest lands and propose this to LCDC for approval.

This proposal, not supported by any data from the task force, is based on the perception that unproductive lands have been mis-designated by counties, and that counties are prevented from correcting these errors. Counties can, and do, re-designate land from agricultural or forest to other categories. In fact, counties re-designated over 20,000 acres from agriculture to other rural uses between 1989 and 2007. If land is mis-zoned, counties should correct the zoning error, not come up with new definitions for farm and forest land.

Simply put, this Task Force proposal will lead to rural sprawl, increase global warming pollution from cars and trucks, and impact Oregon agriculture at a time when our economy is already in danger. The Task Force report acknowledges that Oregon has a land use system that protects farm and forest land, contains urban sprawl, and manages growth better than anywhere else in the United States. The system can and should be improved, but it makes no sense to adopt proposals to
weaken land use planning in Oregon.

Now is the time to tell the House Land Use Committee to support the task force proposals to adopt better strategic plans and new performance measures and to oppose allowing counties to re-define farm and forest land. Please come to Salem to testify in support of a stronger, more effective land use program for Oregon!

Time: 3:00 - 4:00 pm; 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Place: State Capitol, Hearing Room E, Salem
Date: February 10th
Contact: Gerik Kransky at

C.I.T.Y. -- The one-pager


We are a group of more than 60 citizens (and growing), united to persuade the Mayor and City Councilors to adopt an ordinance that would clearly allow a few backyard hens as pets and for eggs. Many cities have done this already, including Portland, Eugene, Boise, Fort Collins, Madison, Denver, and even New York City, just to name a few. Newsweek, USA Today, and NPR have all published recent articles about what is being called the Urban Chicken Movement.

We have over 500 signatures on a petition and support from the Marion-Polk Food Share, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University, Oregon Tilth, South Mill Creek Neighborhood Association, and the West Salem Neighborhood Association, with more forthcoming!

On Monday evening, February 23rd (6:30-8:00 pm), we will give a formal presentation at City Hall. We need to fill the council chambers with supporters. Please come and bring your friends!

Our Request

We drafted an ordinance amendment that allows up to 5 hens (no roosters), which must be enclosed at all times, the coop must be at least 25' away from structures on adjacent properties, and must be kept clean and attractive. Following are reasons for our proposal:

Chickens make great pets - They are friendly, social, intelligent, affectionate entertaining, low-maintenance, and inexpensive to keep. They have distinct personalities and come when you call them, like to be petted, and will eat right out of your hands. They are also quieter, cleaner, and safer than most other common pets.

Chickens are an important part of green-living - Chickens help us reduce our carbon footprint by eating grass clippings and kitchen scraps, providing manure that can be used as garden fertilizer, eating weeds, insects, and slugs, and providing a local source of nutritious eggs.

Chickens give consumers some control - Food recalls have become common and people are concerned with food safety and animal welfare.

Chickens are economical - Home-grown eggs are cheaper and more nutritious than store-bought eggs. Given our current socio-economic situation, keeping a few backyard hens has never been more practical.

Chickens are educational - Backyard chickens provide educational opportunities for children in 4H or FFA who live in the city where it is not practical to keep large animals or livestock. It is also a chance for neighborhood children to learn where their food really comes from.

For more info:

To join our group contact:

What libraries should look like outside

click on image for full story

If we're going to rely on tolls ...

John Kenneth Galbraith said that the most expensive four words in the English language are "This time it's different."

Yet, the argument that bridge boosters in Salem and Portland are making to build massive and wildly expensive new bridges is precisely that: "This time it's different."

They're saying that, contrary to a century of experience showing that new road capacity always induces more demand than the road was designed to handle (until the same degree of congestion occurs at the new, higher level of use), that they can use tolls to limit this induced demand.

If they're so confident that they can affect usage with tolls, why won't they validate the assumption by putting tolls on the existing bridges to bring the congestion down and eliminate the need for the monstrously expensive new bridges?

Or is the point to say anything to anyone at anytime, just so long as it results in getting these projects rammed through? Here's a startlingly good op-ed piece by the head of Portland's Metro regional government on the "analysis" of induced demand and the effects of tolls. Metro is totally in the bag for a new multi-billion dollar boondoggle on the Columbia, yet even its top official can't stomach the way that the Road Gang is trying to run the same old full-court press to get that project off the ground.

Chickens win a battle in Battle Ground, WA

The city council in Battle Ground, WA visited this issue in December. I believe the thinking was that this formerly rural area that was becoming "citified" needed to preempt any potential problems that keeping small animals on city lots might bring (smells, noise, etc.) However, so many people testified in support of allowing homeowners to keep chickens, rabbits, and small goats for food on their city lots that the rules were left alone and no further action is planned. The county Food Security Council and several gardening and farm supporters testified, stressing the need for public policies supporting local food security and affordable food, and allowing residents to grow as much of their own food as possible.

Theresa Cross
Clark County Public Health
United States
It would be interesting to hear from anyone who was around and keeping chickens when Salem decided to get all gussied up and forbid "livestock" in residential areas zoned RS (residential single) -- was there ever a problem, or was the problem with real livestock (horses, cows, etc.) brought into the city via annexation?

Note also the reference to a county "Food Security Council" -- now wouldn't that be a great idea for Oregon's top ag county (Marion County)? Since we're already seeing lots of signs of growing food INsecurity -- a/k/a hunger -- maybe it's time we stopped worrying about being "citified" and started letting people keep a small flock (five or six hens) in Salem.

City Should Welcome Urban Chickens

In light of this fascinating table of chicken regulations (compiled in 2003), it's no wonder that the urban chicken (hen) movement is spreading. Like Salem, Columbus, Ohio, and its surrounding towns form a state capital region in the midst of prime ag land.

Seems that the sins of the 70s were more than just disco -- cities like Salem decided to push out chickens, not realizing that even really, really big cities (like Chicago and New York City) allow unlimited numbers of chickens.
Columbus, Ohio, columnist: City should welcome urban chickens

. . . Last summer, she bought five baby chickens.

She coos about how they recognize her when she enters the pen, how one in particular likes to jump into her arms. They don't smell, she said, or make much noise.

She can't say the same about her two dogs.

I won't identify my friend, however, because she might be breaking a Worthington law that restricts where chickens, horses and cattle may roam.

ThisWeek reporter Candy Brooks wrote about the urban-chicken dispute last week.

A family of Florida transplants regards the chickens they brought with them as pets. A neighbor says the chickens bother his dog.

In Worthington, the neighbor with the beef has the law on his side, Brooks wrote.

A 1973 ordinance prohibits chickens, horses and cattle "anywhere within the city within 150 feet of any residence" other than that of the owner of the livestock.

I'm not sure about the magic of 150 feet, but that's a chicken ban, for all intents and purposes.

The fowl owner has asked the city to remove chickens from the ordinance. Worthington already has a law that bans any animals that "create offensive odors, excessive noise or unsanitary conditions which are a menace to the health, comfort or safety of the public."

The benefits of urban chickens are obvious. If they are old enough to lay eggs, they produce a protein-rich food. And nitrogen-rich chicken poop is great for the compost pile (which I will start this summer).

As usual, too much of a good thing can be bad, but a couple of chickens' worth is manageable.

Chickens eat bugs and vermin, including cockroaches, tomato hornworms, aphids and grubs, according to the Urban Chickens Web site, which was started -- you guessed it -- to promote chickens in cities.

The movement is growing. And there's no better place to accommodate it than Worthington, a regional leader in sustainable living.

Surely, there's a way to accommodate these chicken-lovers.

Let's not turn them into outlaws.