Metro Urban/Rural Reserves

Land Use Issues

Built into Oregon’s land use system is the concept that cities must provide an adequate inventory of residential and employment lands within their Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). This inventory must be reassessed every ten years, and it typically results in the need to expand the UGB to provide adequate inventory. This results in continuous development pressure on surrounding ag land. French Prairie not only has the best soils in Oregon, but is directly south of metro Portland, so UGB changes in the metro Portland UGBs can have direct impacts on French Prairie and surrounding agricultural areas.

Oregon’s unique land use laws go back to SB 1000 in the early 1970’s, reflecting the vision of Governor Tom McCall, Hector MacPherson, and others, who understood the need to preserve farm land by focusing growth in cities. That Senate bill required all cities to establish Urban Growth Boundaries and direct growth within the UGB, and provided a methodology to expand UGBs based on need.

By the early 2000’s some challenges were becoming apparent, and the need for an update especially apparent in the Portland metro area where the UGB was composed of three Counties: Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington—i.e. Metro.

In 2007, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1011, which allowed the counties to develop a 50-year growth plan by designating Urban Reserves which would be the first areas to be developed and Rural Reserves which would not be subject to development.

The process was substantial, and the outcome was great but not perfect. That resulted in appeals and court rulings, some of which are still unresolved. Nick Christensen, staff writer for Metro, has written an excellent article on the state of the Rural Reserves titled A 50-year map: Years of research, public input led to agreement on reserves plan.

It is well written and chronologically comprehensive, covering the problems that prompted Metro and the State to initiate the whole question of “reserves,” documenting the process and involvement of hundreds of municipalities and private citizens, how the decisions were made, the legal appeals and how we ended up where we are today.

It is a worthwhile read for all Oregonians interested in the subject of land use policy, and those concerned about the current threats certain Clackamas County areas are facing. You can access it on the Metro web site, or download a copy in PDF below.

Download a PDF version of “A 50-year map: Years of research, public input led to agreement on reserves plan.”

Metro web site:

FOFP recently published these two white papers on the subject of Oregon pushing development at the expense of farm land. You can download them in PDF format here: