September 9, 2009

Oregon county recommends 34,000 acres for urban growth

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After more than a year of debate, officials in Washington County in Oregon have suggested that 34,000 acres — namely existing farmland and forests — be designated for future development, reports Brad Schmidt of the Oregonian. The decision comes in lieu of uproar from some of the cities’ agricultural communities,  who risk losing one-fifth of their farmlands, an issue InvestigateWest covered in August.

Oregon’s unique land-use laws, which place invisible lines between the state’s urban and rural populations, have long plagued city planners bracing for growth. Regional policy makers can expand the Urban Growth Boundaries (UBG) to accommodate a growing population, but the issue is frequently contested by ranchers and rural folks, especially in Washington County — one the state’s strongest agriculture regions.

Writes Christian Gaston in the Forest Grove News-Tribune:

On one side is the group of people who say keeping the UGB where it is will force new developments to be built more densely, avoiding urban sprawl. End goal: New York.

On the other side is a group of people who say expanding the UGB will make it cheaper to build new houses or industry. End goal: Los Angeles.

Ray Pitz of the Sherwood Gazette reported that the Washington County Farm Bureau berated the county for their designation process, even arguing that they had misread the state statute that allows them to expand UGB boundaries. The issue has been forwarded to the regional committee, who have until November to make their final recommendations.

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