Steve C. Morasch

Gregory J. Dennis

Practice areas:

Phone: 360-558-5912 (WA)  |  503-283-3393 (OR)
Fax: 360-558-5913
stevem@landerholm.com

For more than 20 years, Steve Morasch has represented developers and landowners in the land use permitting process in Oregon and Washington. He has experience in all aspects of land use planning in both states, including transportation planning and growth management, and environmental issues such as floodplains, stormwater, geotechnical issues, wetlands, riparian habitat, the Endangered Species Act, and SEPA. 

"I enjoy helping my clients develop creative solutions to complex problems."

Steve engages a multi-disciplinary approach to land use, working with planning consultants, civil engineers, traffic engineers, geotechnical engineers, architects, landscape architects, surveyors, archeologists, and biologists to strategize solutions and manage client projects from start to finish. He has also negotiated numerous development agreements covering a wide variety of issues including project vesting, transportation mitigation, impact fees, and SDC credits. 

During his career, Steve has appeared at hundreds of land use hearings before hearing officers, planning commissions, city councils, boards of county commissioners, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, and the trial and appellate courts in both Oregon and Washington.

Steve has successfully defeated court challenges to development approvals brought by state agencies and environmental groups in both Oregon and Washington. Steve was the lead land use counsel in the $6.5 million federal jury verdict against the City of Forest Grove for abuse of power in the subdivision construction permitting process. He has focused his court work on constitutional claims affecting landowner rights, including equal protection, free speech, due process, regulatory takings, and exactions under Dolan/Koontz.

Admitted to practice:

  • State of Washington
  • State of Oregon
  • United States District Court for the District of Oregon
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Education:

  • AS, Clark College, 1987
  • BS, Willamette University, magna cum laude, 1989
  • JD, Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College, summa cum laude, 1992

Professional leadership/recognition

  • Steve is the Chair of the Clark County Planning Commission, where he has served since 2007
  • Steve is Peer Review Rated “AV Preeminent” in Martindale-Hubbell. (AV®, BV® and CV® are registered certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies.)
  • Steve has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an award from the Wall Street Journal and an award from Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. He has also received eight legal awards from American Jurisprudence.
  • In 2005, Steve was selected as a recipient of The Vancouver Business Journal's "Accomplished Under 40" Award, which honors young professionals who have distinguished themselves with a balance of accomplishments in their profession and in the community.

Notable cases:

  • David Hill v. City of Forest Grove, 688 F. Supp. 2d 1193 (D. Or. 2010). Precedent-setting case involving constitutional claims for equal protection, due process and takings (both Dolan exactions and temporary takings). After developer obtained land use approval to build 215-lot subdivision, the City delayed the project in an effort to assist other more favored local developers and property owners. We sued the City in the Federal District Court of Oregon for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. After a month long trial, the jury found the City had violated David Hill's constitutional rights and awarded over $6,500,000 in damages.
  • Squier v. Multnomah County, 71 Or LUBA 98, LUBA No. 2014-074 (Feb. 4, 2015). Affirmed hearings officer interpretation that the Rural Residential Rule adopted by LCDC does not apply to houseboat moorages and that the County ordinances regulating moorages were fully acknowledged, so statewide planning Goal 14 did not apply. Also, the brief filed by 1000 Friends of Oregon was stricken for failure to include “anything that would significantly aid LUBA’s review.”
  • Oregon Coastal Alliance v. City of Newport, 68 Or LUBA 318 (2013). Land use approval of Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) for proposed industrial development need not address geotechnical issues which can be addressed at the construction permitting stage.
  • Julian v. City of Vancouver, 161 Wash. App. 614, 255 P.3d 763 (2011). Established important principles of vested rights and the principle that functional isolation of wetlands does not require complete physical isolation in order to qualify for a reduced riparian setback. Also obtained an attorney fees award against the neighbors who challenged the development.
  • Marine Street LLC v. City of Astoria, 37 Or LUBA 587 (2000). Established that conditions of approval may be attached to a zoning code text amendment to limit allowed uses in order to comply with the state transportation planning rule that a zone change may not significantly affect a transportation facility.
  • Oregon Department of Transportation v. Coos County, 158 Or App 568, 976 P2d 68 (1999). Established that under a Level of Service standard, an increase in traffic in a substandard intersection that does not reduce the Level of Service by a full letter grade does not significantly affect a transportation facility under the state Transportation Planning Rule. As a result of this case, the Department of Land Conservation and Development rewrote the state Transportation Planning Rule and the Oregon Department of Transportation rewrote the Oregon Highway Plan to change the Level of Service standard to a volume capacity standard.
  • Department of Land Conservation and Development v. Coos County, 35 Or LUBA 285 (1998). Established that a property owner could obtain a non-exception rezone of Exclusive Farm Use land to rural residential upon a showing that the property did not qualify as farm or forestland as defined in Goals 3 and 4.
  • Franklin v. Deschutes County, 139 Or App 1, 911 P2d 339 (1996). Established important principles of standing and refined the meaning of "land use decision" under the statutory provisions governing LUBA review of land use decisions.
  • Bremer v. Josephine County, 138 Or App 511, 909 P2d 896 (1996). Land use appeal filed by 1000 Friends of Oregon on behalf of petitioner David Bremer dismissed for defective service.
  • Boldt & Boldt, 344 Or 1, 176 P3d 388 (2008). Pro bono amicus work for non-profit organization of doctors establishing that a minor child's wishes regarding elective surgery must be a factor taken into consideration by the courts when faced with a custody battle between two parents centering around the issue of whether to force the child to undergo elective surgery against the child's wishes.

Notable projects:

  • Oregon land use approval for a 12-inch natural gas pipeline crossing EFU and forestland through the Oregon coast range to extend natural gas service from the Williams pipeline to the Cities of Coos Bay, Coquille, Myrtle Point, and Bandon.
  • Zoning code textual amendment in Clark County, Washington, to allow wholesale propane distribution as permitted use in the light industrial zone for properties served by rail.
  • Environmental and land use work for Washington ports, including SEPA and Shorelines Act permitting for new rail projects and marine terminals.
  • Shoreline work for private projects, including the Tidewater Cove mixed use project in Vancouver, Washington.
  • Design Review (with modifications to the loading requirements) for the final phase of the Pioneer Place development in downtown Portland, Oregon, including retail pavilion and sky bridge.
  • Central City Parking Review to preserve parking rights created by the final phase of the Pioneer Place development.
  • Design review for Tiffany's façade in the Pioneer Place development.
  • Conditional use and site plan review for multiple coastal condominium developments in Oregon and Washington.
  • Subdivision, site plan review, and planned residential development review for mixed use resort hotel, condominium, and commercial center development in Government Camp, Oregon.

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