Editorial: Deschutes should not be eager to say no

Published Jun 26, 2014 at 12:01AM

When should Deschutes County say no to builders and developers?

It may have a new reason, but it’s full of problems.

County commissioners have asked staff to consider changing county code. The county would be prohibited from issuing land use or building permits if a property has a code violation or has not complied with a land use decision.

The change in county code is just a proposal. No sample language has been developed.

On the surface, it appears sound. Why would the county want to let builders build if they haven’t followed the rules?

But it’s just not that simple.

The county has not fully vetted the idea yet. The county planning commission voted in December to urge the county commissioners to initiate the change after hearing testimony from only three county residents.

That’s hardly a representative sample of the county.

And that’s why it was a smart move from Commissioner Tammy Baney to stress that the commissioners would “consider” the change rather than “initiate” it.

There is already a process and penalties for handling violations. The planning department should illustrate examples when it could have used this extra lever.

If there are not enough good examples, there’s not enough reason to change.

Another thing to consider is that not all violations are the same. For instance, some code violations may cause imminent harm to the health and safety of people. Those are the most serious. Then there are those that may cause economic harm or may harm wildlife. Those can also be serious but are less so. Then there are violations that have to do with aesthetics.

How exactly will the county decide which are serious enough? Who will decide? Shouldn’t there be an appeal process? Isn’t this all getting very complicated when the county already has a process for handling violations?

Yes, it is.

And the county commissioners should not shrink from going from “initiate” to “consider” to “reject.”