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 working forests; it’s critically important to uphold those laws now and for future generations.
Closing the Loopholes in Farm protections
Central Oregon LandWatch persevered against an attempt to erode protections for farmland with a favorable decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2016.
A Sisters-area landowner applied for a permit to establish a “private park” on its 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.
Commercial 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. Thanks to LandWatch, this closes a gap in protections for farmland and still allows weddings and other events – as long as the correct conditions are met.
Update: Having failed to disguise its primarily commercial for-profit event venue as a private park, the same property owner attempted to disguise its primarily commercial for-profit event venue as a church. LandWatch appealed this case to the Land Use Board of Appeals and LUBA considered multiple reasons why that use would not be permitted and ruled that it is not allowed in the Metolius Deer Winter Range. The property owner then appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Protecting Central Oregon Farm and Range Land
Oregon’s visionary land use system created more than forty years ago has preserved the natural abundance we all now enjoy, including farm and range land, open space and working forests. Central Oregon LandWatch is working to uphold those laws now and for future generations.
As a part of this work, we are keeping farmland connected and available for future generations by preventing inappropriate development.
Local farmers and ranchers from Tumalo to Madras take pride in producing local food and goods for our community. Our work protects Central Oregon’s agricultural roots and preserves opportunities for emerging farmers and ranchers.
Banner Photo courtesy of Austin Montreil Leonard