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The land use body dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, not on the merits of the arguments

This Citizen's View is in response to the recent coverage in the Spokesman concerning the appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) about the Aurora Airport Master Plan, which was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, and the subsequent decision by the Wilsonville City Council to appeal that decision to the State Court of Appeals.

The lack of clarity about what actually happened and what actually was decided (or not decided!) in the LUBA decision is summarized in the remark from Councilor Ben West in the Dec. 23 article where he is quoted as saying, "I think we got shellacked. We lost on every count. And I am not convinced there is a clear pathway to victory in the appeal process."

Two immediate points jump out of this statement. The first is the assertion that "we lost on every count." It implies that the legal arguments mounted in the LUBA appeal were found to be weak or wrong and were legally addressed by LUBA which determined they lacked legal merit. That is simply not the case, because LUBA dismissed the appeal by saying that it does not have jurisdiction.

What does that mean? It means they accepted the argument by the Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) that the decision by the Aviation Board concerning the master plan "was not a land use decision," and they were "not required to separately demonstrate compliance with the goals" in the state land use system.

In common language, that means LUBA gave the ODA a pass because they elected to make a jurisdictional decision and not address the legal issues that were presented, such as: urbanization of rural lands, impacts on Exclusive Farm Use land and local farming, exclusion of impacted municipalities like the cities of Wilsonville and Aurora as well as Clackamas County and the absence of infrastructure including transportation, sewer, water and stormwater management to support a larger airport. Instead, they settled for accepting the argument that if the master plan was compatible with Marion County's comprehensive plan, addressing the state land use system goals was not necessary.

What's wrong with that? Simply that the 2012 Aurora Airport Master Plan was never adopted into the Marion County Comprehensive Plan. Rather, the Marion County Board of Commissioners sent a letter "acknowledging" the 2012 master plan had been released. The new plan was never "assessed" to confirm compatibility.

The second point that jumps out of Councilor West's statement is his comment that he doesn't see a clear pathway to victory. I have to think he hasn't been paying attention at City Council meetings. How does he think the city defines victory? All along the city has argued and fought for a transparent master planning process that included impacted municipalities and was serious about infrastructure impacts and complied with the state land use laws.

Councilor West appears to define victory for Wilsonville much as the development interests at the Aurora Airport (from whom he received over $25,000 in campaign contributions during the last election!) do — as closing or shrinking the Aurora Airport. That's never been the goal of Wilsonville or 1000 Friends or Friends of French Prairie.

The purpose of going to the Court of Appeals is to determine if it was a land use decision, and to have the legal arguments addressed. That's what victory looks like!

Ben Williams is an Aurora resident and the president of Friends of French Prairie


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