Two lawsuits filed by citizens protesting a Salem City Council vote that would allow expansion of Salem’s urban growth boundary (UGB) to accommodate a 3rd bridge across the Willamette, are one step closer to resolution.

On July 13, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals heard oral arguments on petitions filed after Salem City Council voted 5-2 last December to approve an Ordinance that would modify the city’s UGB, amend the city’s transportation system plan and comprehensive plan and make exceptions to a Statewide Planning Goal written to protect the Willamette River Greenway from development.

At the hearing, petitioners and the city made presentations to LUBA judges and addressed arguments made by the other side.

The citizen petitioners were represented by Salem attorney John Gear who operates a values-based Oregon law practice serving consumers, elders, employees, and nonprofits, and the city was represented by William Kabeisman, of the Portland firm Seidel, Miner, Bloomgren Chellis and Gram PC.

Salem’s EM Easterly, a private citizen who filed a petition against the city, also argued his position.

The Gear petitioners said they had identified six errors in the city council’s ordinance. At the hearing Gear described, among other issues, how the ordinance did not follow state rules for making decisions that reduced the reliance on the automobile, how the decision was based on the use of incorrect population figures and how any decision such as this was required by law to examine and exclude reasonable alternatives before it requested an expansion.

Kabeisman and the city argued that there was a need for an additional crossing to the Willamette River, that the river had limited crossing opportunities and they presented arguments against the petitioner’s claims.

Following the hearing, Robert Cortright, one of the petitioners and a retired economist and land use analyst, told Salem Weekly, “The petitioners feel very good about our written brief to LUBA and today’s oral argument. Our attorney, John Gear, made the points that we felt are important to LUBA deciding the case, and gave LUBA strong reasons to reject the city’s responses to our arguments. We look forward to LUBA’s decision.” City of Salem attorney Dan Atchison declined to comment.

LUBA had a statutory deadline of July 27 for its final decision. However, the parties were asked to agree to an additional week. They did so, and the decision will now be issued by August 3rd.