"Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal condomania, and the ravenous rampages of suburbia."
That was Gov. Tom McCall's 1973 fear for the future of Oregon - a fear that led him to urge the state Legislature to take action to regulate the state's development and land-use planning.
More than 30 years after the Department of Land Conservation and Development was created, the department still makes the rules regarding what can be built where, but is also trying promote economic development in the state.
The commission is holding its regular meeting in Astoria this week to discuss its regular business agenda and get a more complete picture of the issues facing the North Coast.
"This is a way for our Land Conservation and Development Commission members and staff to get out of Salem and see the land use issues on the ground," said Lane Shetterly, director of the department. Shetterly was an Oregon state representative for seven years before he became the department's director in February.
The seven-member commission and department staff saw Astoria by trolley Wednesday, then took a tour of the area by bus that included stops to visit the jetties, the Port of Astoria, the trailhead of the Fort to Sea Trail at Sunset Beach, and ended at the Astoria Column, where the visitors enjoyed a birds-eye view of the surrounding area.
Wednesday evening, the commission met with officials from Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties in a discussion of local planning issues and economic development (see story above).
Each local government developed its own comprehensive land use plan, most of which were acknowledged by the department in the early 1980s. If the local governments need to change those plans or if the plan is up for periodic review, the department becomes involved to ensure that the plan meshes with the statewide goals and policies.
The department also provides technical assistance with land use planning where it is needed, said Shetterly.
He acknowledges that many in Oregon are wary of the department, but said that staff are working together with local governments and other agencies to help Oregon's economic recovery.
"I think the DLCD is one of those agencies that was for too long perceived, especially outside of the valley, as being too insular," said Shetterly. "We really do want to be involved in every corner of the state."
When he became director, Shetterly said Gov. Ted Kulongoski set three goals for him and the department.
The first goal was to connect the land use planning process with the governor's statewide economic development agenda, said Shetterly. The department is working towards this by participating in the industrial lands taskforce that identifies and certifies potential industrial sites, and as part of the economic revitalization team that coordinates efforts of multiple state agencies, he said.
The second goal Shetterly mentioned was to improve relations with local government partners.
"Too often the department has been seen as the land use development cop," said Shetterly, who said he wanted to change that perception by working with the governments and potential developers to help solve problems.
The third goal is to work with the legislature to develop a bill that would allow for a 30-year review of the land use program.
"We started this land use planning program 30 years ago, and when we did it we were pioneers in the field," said Shetterly. "There have been changes but we've not really taken a look at the whole thing and fundamentally reviewed it."
Shetterly said he also has plans for the department to go on a statewide campaign to explain to people why the rules are in place, and the overarching goals of the program.
He said he wants "people to understand that the regulatory system is connected to a vision, and that vision is expressed in the goals."