Petition Protests Planning Practices

Neighborhood advocate Paul Conte has filed a notice of intent to petition the Land Conservation and Development Commission for an enforcement order related to the city of Eugene’s planning processes.

The notice alleges that the city has consistently failed to follow the required statutory processes for land use decisions and the approval of permits. The city has 60 days to respond to the notice, and Conte says the city can essentially explain how it will comply or how it is already complying. He says that if the city responds that it’s already in compliance with state statutes, he’ll move forward with the petition.

“Staff is constantly acting as the advocate for applicants for land use actions such as zone changes, planned unit development and so forth,” Conte says. “First off, that’s not appropriate because staff is supposed to be independent in this type of work.”

Oregon is known for its commitment to citizen involvement in public planning, but Conte says that city staff helps land use applicants find loopholes and then advocates for them improperly without giving the same level of assistance to residents who want to challenge the land use.

Conte says that one step toward equalizing that system and persuading him not to petition would be to ensure that the staff members giving advice on how to prepare for or challenge land use decisions are not the same as the people scrutinizing the applications. He says something is structurally wrong when the preparer of an application or a close colleague is scrutinizing the application.

The notice also cites the city’s process in the approval of four Multiple-Unit Property Tax Exemptions (MUPTEs) in the past three years (which is the statute of limitations for appeals). The notice states that “the pattern and practice of the city of Eugene has undeniably been to approve MUPTE resolutions without citing any evidence or analysis to demonstrate the projects will be, at the time of completion, in conformance with the Metro Plan or the applicable refinement plans.”

Conte says that while he’s known for his previous opposition to the MUPTE for the Capstone student housing project, this suit is about a longer history of how the city has handled MUPTE applications. “Capstone simply alerted me to that problem,” he says.

A spokesperson for Mayor Kitty Piercy says that because this is a legal matter, she can’t comment.

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