Win for LandWatch and for Oregon's Land Use System

Oregon’s visionary land use system created more than forty years ago has preserved the natural abundance we all now enjoy, including farmland, open space and wildlife habitat in rural areas; it’s critically important to uphold those laws now and for future generations. Wednesday, Central Oregon LandWatch persevered against an attempt to erode protections for farmland with a favorable decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals. 

Photo by Austin Montreil Leonard

Photo by Austin Montreil Leonard

A Sisters-area couple applied for a permit to establish a “private park” on their property for the purpose of holding for-profit events without following the conditions set in place to protect farmland. This would allow landowners to circumvent the land use system by permitting uses that would not otherwise be allowed on land zoned for farmland and wildlife habitat. LandWatch appealed the application in order to uphold protections for family farms and wildlife.

Weddings and other events are explicitly allowed on exclusive farm use (EFU) land since the Legislature passed a bill to allow them in 2011. When passing this bill, the Legislature set in place a variety of conditions to protect farmland. If permits were given to hold events on “private parks,” these protections would be negated.

In a decision that will be of statewide benefit, the Court of Appeals ruled that a primarily commercial activity, like a wedding event venue, was not intended to be the primary use of a private park. Private parks are to be used for “low-intensity outdoor recreational use,” according to the Court. This closes a gap in protections for farmland and still allows weddings and other events – as long as the correct conditions are met.