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Rural Development in Oregon
Rural Development in Oregon
Pratum area, east of Salem
At the outset of the Statewide Planning Program, counties were required to inventory farm (Goal 3) and forest (Goal 4 ) lands, and zone them as such, unless the land was physically developed by or irrevocably committed to other uses that made resource (farm or forest) use of the property impracticable.
The process by which a local government shows this is called ´taking an exception´ to the appropriate resource Goal. Most counties included ´exception areas´ in their comprehensive plans, providing locations for residential, commercial, industrial, and public uses outside urban growth boundaries.
Goal 14 says: “Urban growth boundaries shall be established to identify and separate urbanizable land from rural land.” The definition of ´rural land´ from the goals is:
Rural lands are those which are outside the urban growth boundary and are:
  1. Non-urban agricultural, forest or open space lands, or
  2. Other lands suitable for sparse settlement, small farms or acreage homesites with no or hardly any public services, and which are not suitable, necessary or intended for urban use
The statewide Goals therefore require local jurisdictions to ensure that only rural uses are permitted outside urban growth boundaries, or that an exception to Goal 14 is justified, showing that all rural uses, not just farming and forestry, are impracticable.
During the original acknowledgment process, counties and the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) did not typically address whether local zoning regulations permitted ´urban´ uses outside urban growth boundaries. The focus instead was on whether the land was available for farm or forest use.
Goal 14 was considered applicable only within urban growth boundaries. But this changed when the Oregon Supreme Court made a decision on 1000 Friends of Oregon vs. Land Conservation and Development Commission and Curry County (301 Or at 447). Now, counties and LCDC must ensure that Goal 14 is addressed in rural areas.
Because most county comprehensive plans had been acknowledged prior to the supreme court decision, the new interpretation is implemented when counties update their plans through ´periodic review.´ This has proven to be a slow process with mixed results, partly because it has been difficult for LCDC to develop guidelines for local jurisdictions to employ.
A portion of the issue was addressed when LCDC adopted the Unincorporated Communities Rule (OAR 660, Division 22 ) and amended Goal 14 to recognize established development centers that were never incorporated but nevertheless have many of the qualities of a small city.
This administrative rule defines several types of communities and provides limitations on the types and sizes of uses permitted in these communities, generally restricting uses that are inappropriate considering available water, sewer, and transportation service, or uses that would tend to undermine the viability of nearby urban areas.
Another aspect of the urbanization issue deals with uses of rural residential lands (that is, land planned and zoned for residential use outside urban growth boundaries and unincorporated communities). LCDC adopted an administrative rule on June 9, 2000, which became effective on Oct. 4, 2000, that addresses this issue.
The rule (OAR 660-004-0040) results in several changes that affect how some counties zone rural residential lands and how all counties approve a rezone to allow greater density within a rural residential (RR) zone.
The rule recognizes all existing ´RR´ zoning if it carries a minimum lot size of at least two acres. Any county with a smaller minimum lot size may not allow creation of new lots smaller than two acres.
Around certain cities, the minimum lot size is required to be 10 or 20 acres (see OAR 660-004-0040(8)) so that future urban-area expansion is not impeded.
The rule does not require that existing lots contain a minimum number of acres in order to be developed. In fact, LCDC opted to permit existing development rights on all existing lots and parcels to remain unaffected.
To change a zone so that a higher residential density would be permitted, or to change from a farm or forest zone to ´RR´ with a minimum lot size smaller than 10 acres, requires an ´exception´ to Goal 14.