Over 20,000 acres of farm and forest land remain protected from residential development...for now.
Last Friday, the Land Use Board of Appeals sided with DLCD, Friends of Douglas County, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and ODFW, remanding an attempt by Douglas County to revise its state-approved comprehensive plan by redesignating more than 22,000 acres of productive farm and forest land for residential development. Local farmer and forester Shelley Wetherell expressed gratitude for the decision:
"This farm and forest land will continue to be protected under statewide planning Goals 3 and 4 instead of becoming large lot developments."
Ms. Wetherell is also the board chair of Friends of Douglas County, a 1000 Friends of Oregon affiliate group, and the group that led the original challenge to this development proposal.
In addition to the county's failure to comply with Goals 3 and 4 (which protect agricultural and forest lands, respectively), LUBA cited failures related to Goal 2 (land use planning process), as well as Goals 7, 10, and 11. For a description of each of Oregon's 19 land use planning goals, go here.
Of particular note is the Goal 7 issue, which was highlighted by 1000 Friends Staff Attorney Meriel Darzen:
"The county should have considered the wildfire risks associated with allowing so many new structures in a highly-fire prone landscape."
The heart of Oregon's world-class working forests, Douglas County is also especially vulnerable to devastating wildfire. For instance, the Milepost 97 wildfire, which broke out in Douglas County in late July and has burned over 13,000 acres, has yet to be fully contained. Over 100 firefighters remain assigned to the fire as of this writing. During the 2019 Legislative Session, 1000 Friends of Oregon was instrumental in the passage of HB 2225, restricting the building of new structures in wildfire-prone areas of the state, and protecting the people and communities of places like Douglas County from unnecessary wildfire risk. For more information about our forest and wildfire work, go here.
While 1000 Friends of Oregon advocates for residential development throughout Oregon, we strongly believe that such development is best achieved within existing urban growth boundaries, so that Oregon's farms, forests, ranches, and natural areas are conserved for use and enjoyment now and by future generations. If LUBA's decision on the Douglas County matter is appealed, Friends of Douglas County and 1000 Friends of Oregon will be there to continue defending Oregon's working lands.
UPDATE: Click here to read Shelley's September op-ed on the decision.