As Mark Twain famously responded to the rumors he had passed away, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Likewise, the recent decision by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which some are trying to proclaim a mortal wound to our hopes for a new bridge, is actually more of a head cold. Yes, it's annoying and something we will need to deal with, but it won't be the end of our bridge, and we're certainly used to dealing with congestion!
So what's the truth about this decision? Well, the people trying to stop the bridge made a total of 16 complaints to LUBA with 13 of them rejected completely. In fact, LUBA essentially agreed with the need for a bridge, finding all of the substantive arguments about the need for it to be correct. Two of the three findings they made requiring simple corrections were very minor issues, and on the third one they are probably wrong.
The first issue needing to be addressed is the preference of LUBA that the city use a different population estimate for our growth over the next 20 years. The city had included an estimate of our growth rate resulting in a population of 316,000, and LUBA pefers a rate that results in a population of 300,000 people. In either case, we are looking at nearly doubling the population over this timeframe. The need for a bridge is completely clear whichever number is used and the city can easily use their other number to resolve this issue.
The second issue was a true technicality with a requirement that the findings the city published and provided regarding the effect of the project on the Willamette Greenway be read into the record. Seriously, that's it. Someone (presumably with a great voice) needs to read the findings into the record. Not exactly an enormous obstacle.
Third, LUBA found the city should have rezoned the land being brought into the Urban Growth Boundary (the island in the river where the bridge will pass over). This is probably not correct, since it is not legal for the city to rezone property that is not in the city. This will likely be turned over on appeal.
None of these are significant problems and all should be able to be resolved easily. For a good explanation of these issues, listen to Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett on the Gator and Denise Show (starting about 14:50).
There are those who may try to take advantage of these technical issues to attempt to turn a cold into a terminal illness for our bridge, but we will be keeping a close eye on the process and alert everyone if we need to turn out to provide a boost to our bridges' immune system. Stay tuned...