- Associated Press - Thursday, December 14, 2017

ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - Commissioners in Douglas County are pondering a plan to earmark nearly 35,000 acres (14,162 hectares) of farmland and forestland for 20-acre (8-hectare) rural housing sites but have encountered resistance from land conservation groups and skepticism from state regulators.

The plan, which could go to a vote in January, would designate the area as “non-resource transitional lands” to meet a demand for so-called “rural lifestyle” homes, the Capital Press reported Thursday. The plan would allow for about 2,300 new 20-acre (8-hectare) parcels, but the county expects only 25 percent to 50 percent would be developed.

The county wanted to avoid new development in the “middle of nowhere” that’s difficult to reach for firefighters and other service providers, said Keith Cubic, the county’s planning director. The county has land that’s classified for agriculture and forestry but isn’t very good quality for those uses, he said.

Commissioners believe they can use current regulations to solve that problem, he added. Only about 1 percent of the county’s farmland and forestland would be eligible for the large rural housing lots.

But the county’s assertion that there’s demand for rural housing isn’t actually backed up by analysis, said Greg Holmes, Southern Oregon advocate for 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a conservation group.

Surrounding existing cities with low-density rural housing is also problematic when those communities seek to expand, he said. Developers must then consolidate properties and work around or remove existing infrastructure, such as roads and septic tanks.

“When and if the urban areas expand, it’s inefficient,” Holmes said.

Cubic said the plan relies on appropriate analysis of commercially viable forestland and rangeland and complies with statewide land use planning goals.

Under Oregon law, counties must submit amendments to their comprehensive land use plans to the Department of Land Conservation and Development for comment, said Tim Murphy, the agency’s farm and forest lands specialist.

The department doesn’t approve or reject such plans, but they can be challenged before the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals, he said.

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington


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