SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — A group of thirteen Oregon cities and one county have sued Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development, challenging a new set of environmental regulations that the group argues would force them to change their land use rules in damaging ways and on an impractically fast timeline.
Forest Grove, Grants Pass, Happy Valley, Hillsboro, Keizer, Medford, Oregon City, Sherwood, Springfield, Troutdale, Tualatin, Wood Village, Cornelius and Marion County jointly filed the lawsuit Friday in the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs also filed a motion Monday asking the court to place an emergency halt on enforcement of the new regulations while the lawsuit plays out.
The lawsuit targets Oregon’s “Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities” rules, which the Land Conservation and Development Commission adopted this summer in an effort to get Oregon back on track to meet its climate goals, according to the department’s website.
The rules were developed after Gov. Kate Brown issued an order in March 2020 that tightened Oregon’s carbon emission goals and directed state agencies to take action to speed up the pace of emission reduction.
The lawsuit states that the petitioners support the state’s climate goals, but that the new rules upend Oregon’s existing land use system, in which the state sets broad land use goals but local governments have significant power to develop their own localized plans.
More specifically, the plaintiffs argue that limiting the expansion of road networks and concentrating development in city centers could backfire and create more car commuters, either by derailing existing plans for new employment centers near residential areas or by pushing future residential development into nearby bedroom towns that are still below the population threshold for the new rules.
The plaintiffs also take particular issue with the limits that the new rules place on the ability of local governments to set minimum parking space requirements for new development.
The lawsuit argues that some cities already face parking shortages and inadequate public transportation, and further restrictions would impact public safety and economic development while increasing the burden on low-income residents who have no choice but to drive their own cars.