Walter v. City of Eugene

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Land Use
  • Date Filed: 06-30-2016
  • Case #: 2016-024
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Ryan
  • Full Text Opinion

A city’s comprehensive planning and implementing ordinances must employ “clear and objective standards” within the meaning of ORS 197.307(4), and not be so ambiguous that they allow for discretionary decision making.

Petitioners challenged the planning commission decision that denied an application for the planned development approval of a ten-lot subdivision. Petitioners applied to divide the 5.19-acre parcel into ten-lots; three lots would have direct access to West Amazon Drive, while the seven others would access it by a shared driveway. The hearings officer denied the application, finding the plan was not compliant with Eugene Code (EC) 9.8325(6)(c) (the 19-Lot rule). The planning commission affirmed.

The 19-Lot rule seeks to ensure safe and adequate transportation by requiring a street layout that “disperse[s] motor traffic onto more than one public local street.” The hearings officer determined this requirement was not met since the unimproved portion of West Amazon Drive did not qualify as a “public local street,” and since “the current paved portion of West Amazon Drive dead ends to the east and does not connect to any public street in that direction.”

Petitioners also contended the 19-Lot rule was not a “clear and objective standard” under ORS 197.307(4), and therefore should not have been applied. LUBA agreed with the petitioners. Petitioners further alleged that the city’s interpretation of EC 9.8325 (3) to not require a buffer in the areas of the proposed planned unit development (PUD) that provide direct access to a street, was inconsistent with the language of the EC, which does not provide any exceptions to the requirement, and cannot be applied to require the petitioners to provide any buffers. LUBA disagreed, finding the city “applied EC 9.8325(3) in the only way it can reasonably be applied: to allow access to the PUD.”

Since the application was for approval of “needed housing” and the standard the city used was not “clear and objective,” it was outside of the city’s permitted discretion. LUBA ordered the city to approve the application. REVERSED.