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UGBs and Urban/Rural Reserves

Urban Growth Boundaries

Each Oregon city is surrounded by an urban growth boundary (UGB); a line drawn on planning maps to designate where a city expects to grow over a 20-year period. This growth can occur with new houses, industrial facilities, businesses, or public facilities such as parks and utilities. Restrictions in areas outside of a UGB protect farm and forest resource land and prohibit urban development. Generally speaking, it’s where the city ends and the farms and forests begin.

A UGB is expanded through a joint effort involving the city and county, and in coordination with special districts that provide important services in the urban area. The UGB expansion process typically includes some level of citizen participation. Once land is included in a UGB, it is eligible for annexation to a city. Adding land to an existing city limit through annexation is not regulated by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC).

UGB Expansion Using the Simplified Method

In 2015, LCDC adopted a new simplified method for cities to use to evaluate and amend their UGB. This method is provided as an additional option for cities to consider and not in lieu of the traditional UGB amendment process. (The traditional UGB amendment process details can be found in OAR 660-024-0000.) The simplified method was created to reduce the costs, complexity, and time required to amend a UGB. The details of this method can be found in OAR 660-038-0000.

DLCD created a calculator tool for local governments to assist them in using the UGB Expansion Simplified Method.

UGB Simplified Calculator

The following reports summarize analysis performed to support the rules advisory committee tasked with creating the simplified method:
Analysis of Development on Rural Residential Lands: A Report to the HB 2254 Rules Advisory Committee
Analysis of Land Use Efficiency in Oregon Cities
Analysis of Mixed-Use Development and Redevelopment in Oregon Cities

Urban and Rural Reserves

In 2007, the legislature authorized Metro and metro-area counties to designate urban land that might be developed in the future, and rural land to be preserved for farming, forestry, and other rural uses. Special rules for urban reserves in the Portland metropolitan area are intended to assist in the long-term planning for urban development. By designating urban reserves, the agriculture and forest industries, private landowners, and public and private service providers, are aware of future long-term (for the next 50 years) expansion locations of the Metro UGB. Additionally, rural reserves are intended to provide long-term protection for large blocks of agricultural land, forest land, and other important natural landscape features that will limit urban development. Details about designating urban and rural reserves in the Portland metropolitan area can be found in OAR 660-027-0005.

Urban reserves, outside of the Portland Metro area, may also be established by local governments. Urban reserves are intended to provide a 30- to 50-year area for long-term city growth. Urban reserves provide guidance for a city’s long-term future and protect the urban reserve area from rural development which would make future city expansion more difficult. Details about designating urban reserves outside of the Portland Metro area can be found in OAR 660-021-0000.

UGB Amendments in Review

Some UGB amendments adopted by local governments are submitted to DLCD for review. The DLCD director must either 1) approve the local decision, 2) deny the decision and return it to the local government for revision, or 3) refer it to the Land Conservation and Development Commission. The director must make a decision within 120 days from the date the information was received by DLCD. For more detailed information about UGB amendment review criteria and those currently in review by DLCD, click here.


Kevin Young
Senior Urban Planner
Phone: 503-934-0030

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