Update on HB 2229: The big re-zoning bill

Update on HB 2229: The big re-zoning bill
By Oregonians In Action

In the past we’ve discussed the provisions of House Bill 2229, the bill passed by the 2009 Oregon legislature that made important changes to Oregon’s land use laws.

The most important change resulting from HB 2229 is a provision that authorizes county governments across the state to reconsider the zoning of their rural properties. Under current Oregon law, nearly 97% of all privately owned rural land is zoned as farmland or forestland, regardless of the capability of the land to be used for natural resource production.

This zoning pattern is the result of two Goals adopted by the Land Conservation and Development Commission in 1975 – Goals 3 and 4. Goal 3 defines “agricultural land” and Goal 4 defines “forestland.”

Each Goal contains an overly broad definition, encompassing hundreds of thousands of acres that have not and cannot be used for farming or forestry. The end result is a rural Oregon landscape composed of miszoned land that has been idle for decades, contributing nothing to Oregon’s struggling rural economy.

At the same time, thousands of rural property owners have watched in dismay as their property remains vacant, good for nothing but the hope that someday the laws will change.

Over the years, the Oregon legislature has struggled mightily to fix the problem of these “secondary lands” – lands that are zoned as farmland or forestland yet are incapable of being put to profitable use in either industry.

Efforts to change the zoning of these lands have been hindered by special interest groups who enjoy open space created by this massive rural miszoning. Despite claiming to be interested in maintaining Oregon’s agricultural and timber industries (look to see if any of these groups ever intervene on behalf of timber or agricultural groups when the environmental corporations sue to block timber harvests or new regulations limiting farm practices), these groups are simply trying to keep the land as open space.

Fortunately, the Oregon legislature stepped forward in 2009 and approved HB 2229. Under the bill, counties can work with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) to rezone some of the miszoned rural land in their county. Each county will be evaluated on a separate basis, according to a work plan developed between the county and DLCD.

HB 2229 was approved by the legislature on a near unanimous vote (there was one “no” vote), and was signed by Governor Kulongoski.

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