Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Land Use -- More Unintended Consequences

I just posted a comment about how the opponents of "vice" on the Oregon Coast are having generally the reverse effect of the one they want to achieve. To a degree, the same thing is happening with land use planning. In this case, however, the people who are upset ought to be happy. They just don't seem to understand.

The two biggest residential developments on the Oregon Coast in recent years, perhaps ever, are Lone Ranch near Brookings and Villages at Cascade Head at the north end of Lincoln City. People quote specific numbers of lots, but these are all preliminary plans and who knows how many will actually be built. However, it's safe to say that hundreds and hundreds of dwellings will be built at each one.

Both of these projects drew vocal opposition, some local and some the usual regional protesters. The arguments tend to be the same, and they boil down to "too big." But "big" is where land use regulations lead. Almost every development stirs up opposition and it's easy to take an appeal to LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals). This takes time and costs the developer a ton of legal fees.

But the cost of going to LUBA is roughly the same for a small project or a large one. The same hearings, answering the same questions, but a large developer can spread those costs over a lot of homes. For a small developer, the delay and expense can be a killer.

So as long as we have land use regulations, expect to see more rather than fewer big projects. Lone Ranch is on a mining claim that U.S. Borax abandoned a century ago. Borax is now owned by London-based Rio Tinto Mining. These are people with long time horizons and deep pockets. Waiting another five years would be nothing to them.

And frankly, I'm happy about it. Both Lone Ranch and Villages at Cascade Head are well designed, maintaining a lot of green space, putting in plenty of infrastructure before they build. Compare either of them with a lot of subdivisions on the Oregon Coast that have developed every buildable square foot and a rational person ought to be favorably impressed.

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