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Commission approves land use ordinance
With little discussion Wednesday, the Union County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance amending the local land use plan so that state-mandated land use laws can be adopted without public hearings.
The amendment adds a new Oregon Administrative Rule that allows allows local governments to adopt changes in Oregon Revised Statutes, Oregon Administrative Rules and stateside planning goals without hearings, if the only effect is to conform local comprehensive plans and land use regulations to new state requirements.
According to the ordinance, state statutes, rules and goals approved by the state must be implemented, so local public testimony can change nothing.
“Where it’s something we’re required to put in anyway, we feel it’s a smoother process,” Scott Hartell of the planning department told the board prior to the vote on the ordinance.
The move by the county board doesn’t necessarily mean citizens are cut out of the process, according to county staff reports.
When the state amends its administrative rules, statewide planning goals and statutes, it usually holds hearings and takes testimony from the public, though locations of hearings may not be local.
Before Wednesday’s vote on the county ordinance, Commissioner Steve McClure said that some mechanism should be devised to allow the county to weigh in on changes in state law. He said those changes should be an agenda item for the planning commission.
“I think we should try and weigh in, and the best way to do that is to start at the planning commission level,” McClure said.
The planning commission recommended approval of the ordinance following a public hearing March 26.
The county board reviewed the planning commission and held a hearing April 18.
Before Wednesday’s vote, Board Chairman Bill Rosholt noted that the county will save money on the costs of advertising and holding hearings on state mandated changes.
The land use ordinance topped a mostly routine agenda for the board’s regular meeting.
In some other business, the board met with Curt Mattson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, who gave a report on local predator control for fiscal year 2011.
The board also met with Public Works Director Doug Wright concerning an amendment to a fund exchange agreement, and the need to declare some outdated public works equipment surplus.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Ray Randall of Union told the board he would like to see county voters have a chance to weigh in on making county commissioner races non-partisan. He urged that the issue be placed on the November election ballot.
“We all know it could be done by initiative petition, but the simple way is to put it on the ballot,” Randall said.
In other public comment, Irene Gilbert asked the board to look into whether the owners of the Elkhorn Ridge wind farm near North Powder are living up to their mitigation commitments.
Gilbert also asked the board for notification of meetings concerning the Wallowa-Whitman Naional Forest’s Travel Management Plan, and meetings related to the proposed Antelope Ridge wind farm near Union.