This is a great day for Salem. The billion dollar boondoggle known as the Salem River Crossing (or Third Bridge) got a big defeat in a ruling by the Land Use Board of Appeals.
Congratulations to the eight petitioners and E.M. Easterly, who joined in their appeal. Also, kudos to Salem attorney John Gear who argued the appeal.
I haven't read the ruling yet, as LUBA hasn't released it to the public. (The image above came from a No 3rd Bridge Facebook post.)
UPDATE: I now have a copy of the ruling. A quick look-through shows that LUBA rejected most of the "assignments of error" put forward by opponents of the bridge. But the important thing is that the Urban Growth Boundary expansion decision has been remanded (sent back) to the Salem City Council. Practically and politically speaking, the reasons LUBA gave for doing this don't matter a whole lot. Read on to understand why. Here's the ruling:
Download 2016-126 Final Opinion
But the fact that the City of Salem's approval of an Urban Growth Boundary expansion needed for construction of the bridge is now deeply in doubt means that the Third Bridge, if not dead, is critically wounded.
Here's how the No 3rd Bridge folks explained the impact of today's legal decision in their Facebook post.
Today, in the case of Deumling vs. City of Salem, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals remanded the land use actions taken by the Salem City Council last December to advance the Salem River Crossing Project. That means the actions are invalidated and the City needs to start over again and correct deficiencies identified by LUBA. Until they do this, the Salem River Crossing Project cannot move forward to a Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Last December the land use actions were taken by the “old” City Council with Mayor Anna Peterson and a strong pro-bridge majority. In January three new Councilors who were all elected on an anti-bridge platform joined anti-bridge Councilor Tom Andersen on the Council. In March they were joined by Chris Hoy who also ran on an anti-bridge platform.
A few weeks later this five member Council majority voted against approving an intergovernmental agreement with the Department of Land Conservation and Development to advance the project. Now we are hopeful that the majority will stand firm against any effort to appeal the LUBA decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals, or to try to rectify the errors that LUBA found in the land use actions taken by the old Council in December, in order to try to restart the planning project.
LUBA concurred with three of the “assignments of error” presented by the petitioners and an intervenor, E. M. Easterly.
Our thanks to the eight petitioners and the intervenor, and to their attorney John Gear and to Bob Cortright and Kathy Lincoln who provided invaluable assistance.
And here's a press release from No 3rd Bridge:
Land Use Board of Appeals Sends 3rd Bridge Land Use Actions Back to City Council
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Salem, Oregon – Today the state Land Use Board of Appeals agreed with a group of citizen petitioners that the Salem City Council’s action last December to expand its urban growth boundary to permit construction of a bridge over the Willamette from Pine Street to Hope Avenue was not done properly and had to be sent back to the City of Salem.
After considering the written and oral arguments made in Deumling vs. City of Salem (2016-0126), LUBA sustained a total of three objections to the City’s UGB expansion late last year. LUBA agreed with the petitioners on two of their objections to the urban growth boundary expansion decision, and also with one of the objections filed separately by a local resident who intervened in the case on the petitioners’ side in opposition to the UGB expansion.
The result of today’s LUBA’s decision is that Salem’s UGB is not expanded, and the decision is sent back, or “remanded,” which lets the Salem City Council decide whether to try it again or to change course and pursue other options for addressing the peak hour auto congestion problems.
Because LUBA remanded the land use decision, it is invalidated and the UGB remains unchanged. If the City Council decides to try again, the public process and hearings required for an urban growth boundary expansion would have to be repeated. Without the UGB expansion, the Salem River Crossing Project cannot proceed with the “Preferred Alternative,” because the Environmental Impact Statement for that project cannot be completed without the UGB being expanded first.
The eight citizen petitioners who brought the appeal are very pleased with the remand. They urge that Salem pursue a number of less-costly actions to address traffic congestion problems rather than try to repeat the UGB expansion process to accommodate the new bridge on the new route.
“The reality is that the third bridge just isn't a workable solution", said Robert Cortright, spokesperson for the petitioners. "We can't afford it, it won't solve our traffic congestion problems, and it would devastate parks and neighborhoods."
Petitioners urge the City of Salem to focus on improving traffic flow during peak hours by taking advantage of the funds provided in the recent state transportation funding bill, which increased funding for Cherriots and provided initial funds to seismically retrofit and improve the Center Street Bridge. There are many other viable solutions to address the flow of traffic over Salem's two car bridges. The City Council should begin the process to explore these workable options.