City of Coos Bay, Oregon; October 5, 2017: The federal government is twisting environmental and emergency management law to impose federal zoning control over Oregon’s coastal regions and much of the rest of the state. The City of Coos Bay is filing a lawsuit today to take back decision-making power. The city is represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation.
The issue is a bureaucratic power play: In order to be eligible for federal flood insurance, local communities would have to abstain from economic development—purportedly to protect certain endangered species, even though, as a matter of law, FEMA and its flood insurance program have no impact on species whatsoever.
“This is an astonishing federal takeover of local land use decisions,” said PLF Senior Attorney Damien Schiff. “As Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon put it in a letter protesting this federal overreach, ‘FEMA is not a land use regulatory agency and has no authority over privately funded development on private lands by private developers.’
“This sets a dangerous precedent,” Schiff continued. “If federal bureaucrats succeed here in misusing an insurance program to turn themselves into a super zoning board, issuing decrees having nothing to do with flood control and safety, they could try it in any community where the program operates.”
Most of Coos Bay’s downtown is potentially affected by the land use freeze. One project that has been in the works for more than a decade—redevelopment of an old mill facility—is now imperiled, along with spaces for 16 businesses scheduled to locate there.
“The federal government is threatening the future of Coos Bay’s economy and much of Oregon,” said City Manager Rodger Craddock. “In this state, we pride ourselves on careful land use planning. We have some of the most demanding development regulations in the country, designed to balance the environment and development as well as to limit the risks of flooding. This attempt to wrest power away from local communities and the state is not just unlawful, it is destructive, endangering productive policies that promote environmental integrity as well as economic needs.”
“Pacific Legal Foundation fights to ensure that federal regulators respect the legal limits on their power,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “As this case shows, defining these limits is critical to defending individual rights.”
The case is City of Coos Bay v. NMFS. More information can be found at: pacificlegal.org/CoosBay.
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.