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Deschutes County considers farm, forest land policy changes


Deschutes County is considering changes to a land use policy that’s more than 40 years old that could bring new homes to some rural properties, but criticism of the idea was voiced at a hearing Thursday night.

The county’s Community Development Department said there is a lot of undeveloped rural land that was improperly classified as farm or forest land. They said some of those lands were inaccurately zoned when they can’t profitably support agriculture or forestry.

The Planning Commission took public input Thursday evening on the proposed amendment involving ” non-prime resource lands. ”

Basically, they said parts of rural Deschutes County don’t have the productive soil or proper irrigation to be a designated farm or forest land.

Many of the rural lands with those designations have strict zoning requirements. County planners said rezoning some areas would make it easier for landowners to build new houses or remodel existing ones, though the proposals are not for subdivisions, instead with 10-acre minimum lots in six specific areas zone for residential use and 20-acre minimums on other eligible lands.

” Deschutes County aims to reduce the financial hardship on these areas by re-designating them to a new zone, a non-prime resource land zone, that would allow single family residences and their accessory uses outright, ” said county Associate Planner Zechariah Heck.

” So one wouldn’t need to go through a timely and costly land use process in order to develop their property, ” Heck said.

Not all are on board with the proposal. A representative from Central Oregon LandWatch said the rezoning is not needed, and is not legal. He claimed the land Heck said is not suitable for farm or forest use is actually correctly designated as farm or forest land.

He was not the only one to share concerns. The state Department of Land Conservation also is critical of the proposal, as are other groups.

” If we allow more rapid development in rural areas, I think it will undermine some of the attractiveness of Deschutes County and make it less attractive for people to want to raise their children here, as I did, ” said Chuck Humphries , an Oregon Land Water and Alliance board member.

Humphries said high development costs and strict rural land use requirements seem to be the two main problems in rural areas. He does not believe the current proposal will fix them.

If you want to share your thoughts on the amendment, there will be another planning commission meeting on June 13.

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