By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

A significant number of land use cases from Deschutes County have landed in front of the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals this year and more are likely to arrive by year’s end.

Nick Lelack, director of the community development department, said Thursday he expects the number of LUBA appeals generated from Deschutes County to double or triple over the next several months.

County officials attribute the increase to a series of unique applications last year and the continuing complexity surrounding land use regulations for this part of the state.

The number of land use applications — such as for a change of use or for a new development — Deschutes County received in 2014 was about 13 percent higher than 2013, according to an annual report and work plan presented by the Deschutes County Community Development Department this week. The number of applications rose from 459 to 517.

Applicants and opponents can appeal a county decision to LUBA. The county then sends the factual information from the decision to the state land use board for review. The decision is either remanded back to the county or affirmed.

LUBA has issued 19 final opinions on cases involving Deschutes County since 2011. Nine were remanded and sent back to the county, five were affirmed and upheld and five were dismissed.

There are four pending cases from Deschutes County that LUBA has chosen to consider right now, the most from any county in Oregon. A fifth case has been postponed pending an Oregon Supreme Court decision.

“I anticipated the numbers to be greater because of the complexity of the issues that we’re dealing with,” said Commissioner Tammy Baney on Thursday.

Deschutes County commissioners decided in April to allow weddings to take place at a property near Sisters on a designated private park. Baney said the proposal was one of the more distinct recent land use applications.

The board expressed frustration during the process that state land use regulations weren’t more clear on the definition of a private park.

Other decisions that have been appealed this year relate to the Tumalo Irrigation District’s attempt to store Upper Tumalo Reservoir water at two small reservoirs and Widgi Creek homeowners opposing a decision that effectively threw out a 1983 master plan for the resort community.

“What strikes me as very different is the uniqueness of the applications,” Baney said. “We just have some interesting, not your garden variety land use applications.”

“The pending LUBA appeals are a function of the high level of land use activity combined with unique and precedent-setting applications,” Lelack said.

Lelack said the number of land use cases shows that residents of the county care deeply and passionately about local resources and preserving a high quality of life.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, tshorack@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version of the story misidentified the source of water potentially stored at two small reservoirs.

The Bulletin regrets the error.

9993262