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How Citizens Can Be Most Effective in a Land Use Case


When should I get involved?


The earlier the better. The sooner you prevail in your case the easier and less costly it will be. Don’t put off action until the last minute or the final appeal. You will improve your chances of winning if you focus your efforts on the “front end” of a case. Start early and build a strong record of facts supporting your position.


How can I get a fair hearing of my concerns?


Citizens are often outspent 10 to 1 (or more) by developers who can afford to hire consultants, planners and attorneys to make their case. You can restore some balance to the process by getting organized. Join with neighbors to educate the community, raise funds, and identify organizations and people that may be able to help.


When do I need professional help?


Oregon’s Land Use Planning System was originally designed to be user-friendly and to allow adequate opportunities for public involvement. However, every time the Legislature meets, the laws become more complicated and public involvement often takes a hit. You may be able to represent yourself adequately, but consider hiring a land use professional to give you some initial advice on how to make your strongest case. In Oregon a land use planner or attorney can provide this advice on a fixed-cost or hourly basis. They can also help represent you and argue your case.


How much will it cost?


You can participate in the public hearings by testifying orally and in writing at no cost. If you wish to appeal a decision that has been made to a local Hearings Official there is a modest appeal fee (about $300 in Lane County). You can hire professional assistance at rates ranging from a low of about $75/hr for a planner to $200/hr or more for an attorney. Some attorneys require you to pay a retainer of $1,500 or more before they will take your case. If you have exhausted local appeals, you may still be able to take your case to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Here you will need to hire an attorney and legal cost will be high.


Can I really win?


If you have a good case, the answer is yes. But be prepared for it to take awhile. Land use cases can run from a few weeks to a few years. Budget your time and resources accordingly. Plan to stay for the long haul. In order to win you will need to stick it out. Remember: The most common reason for losing a case is “giving up.”


Is it worth it?


This is a personal decision that can best be made by determining what is at stake for you (and your community) if you lose. Development proposals or re-zonings can negatively impact your quality of life and your property values. These are real costs. Try to assess these costs and determine how important it is for you to prevail.


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