Friday, October 29, 2010

Oregon land planning sets urban against rural interests

Northwest Oregon farmers are on the defensive as four governments from a three-county region debate unprecedented urban and rural land designations that could shape the future of the region. The state Land Conservation and Development Commission is considering a plan from Portland Metro and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties that would designate "28,615 acres of urban reserves -- places eligible for eventual development -- and 267,000 acres of rural reserves that will be maintained as farms, forests or natural areas in the three counties," Eric Mortenson of The Oregonian reports. "No other region in the U.S. has attempted such long-range planning; approval by the LCDC is the final step." (Mapquest map)

"Farmers, the conservation group 1000 Friends of Oregon and the state Department of Agriculture oppose urban designations on three areas of prime farmland north of Council Creek, north of Forest Grove and northwest of Hillsboro," Mortenson writes. "The commission heard four days of testimony last week and said it needed more details on Washington County's designations in those areas." The Agriculture Department calls each area "foundation farmland," marked by large blocks of fine soil supported by an infrastructure of fertilizer, seed and equipment dealers, crop processors and irrigation.

"I've farmed next to cities all my life, and it's really tough," Bob VanderZanden, a farmer from Hillsboro, told Mortenson. "They don't blend well. The best way is to have some natural feature that absorbs a lot of that impact." Richard Meyer, development and operations director for Cornelius, said an urban designation for the most hotly contested area, just north of Council Creek, is essential for growth. "We need 4,000 jobs to have a jobs-housing balance that would cut back on our commuting," Meyer said. "Our city limits are right at the urban growth boundary, and all around us is farming." (Read more)

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