Why Are Land-Use Deals So Challenging?

Feb 25, 2014

Oregon lawmakers are scrambling to fix an urban growth plan for the Portland metro area after a court threw out a four-year-old agreement last week. It's just the latest skirmish over land-use policy in the Northwest.

Branden Born has seen his share of conflict over how land should be used. He teaches in the Department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. Born says to understand why this is such a complicated issue, first consider the obvious:

"They're not making more land, right? So it's a limited resource," says Born.

But Born says land-use planning is controversial even in rural parts of the Northwest, where wide open space is prevalent. He says these kinds of regulations hit home—in some cases, literally.

"We have a strong understanding of what private property rights are. And when we begin to think about regulating land, we are really regulating people's use of that land," says Born.

But Born says Northwesterners also have a strong desire to protect natural resources. That conflict between personal rights and the common good is what leads to many land-use battles.

Copyright 2014 NW News.