The state Land Use Board of Appeals has ruled against Douglas County’s plan to allow 20-acre parcels in some rural parts of the county.
In March 2018, the county had approved a new designation for “nonresource land,” allowing residential development on 20-acre parcels of land that have little or no value for natural resource uses like agriculture or timber. About 1% of the county’s land would be eligible for the designation, mostly land along the Interstate 5 corridor forming a buffer between urban and high-value farm or forestlands.
County officials said the new designation would help families seeking what they called a 4-H lifestyle on large open-space lots. The plan drew complaints from some local farmers as well as environmentalists.
After the county approved it, an appeal was filed by 1000 Friends of Oregon, Friends of Douglas County, the Department of Land Conservation and Development and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and the Douglas County Farm Bureau also submitted statements opposing the plan.
LUBA remanded the decision back to the county. It wrote the county had failed to comply with Statewide Planning Goals 3 and 4, which protects farms and forestlands. It also said the county did not use proper data and did not have an adequate factual base to support its decision.
It also said the county failed to coordinate its decision with other local governments that would be affected by the change.
The city of Roseburg had expressed concern about the 20-acre parcel program, including that it could negatively affect the city’s efforts to supply additional housing within city limits and the city’s urban growth boundary, LUBA said. The city was also concerned the rural parcels’ residents would use public infrastructure without sharing in the costs.
“The county does not direct us to any findings responding to the city’s legitimate concerns,” LUBA said.
Friends of Douglas County President Shelley Wetherell said she hoped the LUBA decision would bring an end to the 20-acre parcel plan.
“We’re just grateful that LUBA saw it for what it was, and that 20,000 acres of farm and forestland will continue to be protected under Goals 3 and 4 instead of becoming large lot development,” she said.
Commissioner Tom Kress said in a written statement that the 20-acre parcel plan was a pilot project that was started by an executive order from the governor and fully funded by the state legislature.
“While Douglas County is disappointed by the outcome of the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) decision on the Rural Open Space/Rural Transitional-20 amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan and Land Use and Development Ordinance, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners remains committed to providing development opportunities on lands not generally suitable for agriculture or forestry activities, and will continue to support local and statewide efforts to establish a non-resource land use designation,” Kress said.
County Planning Director Joshua Shaklee said the county is currently considering its options.
“One of the options before the County is to reconsider and re-adopt the amendments on remand from LUBA. But, no decisions have been made yet on how we will move forward,” Shaklee said in a written statement. “As Commissioner Kress stated, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners remain committed to pursuing efforts to establish the non-resource land-use designation.”