Balm Grove, Land Use, Solar Farms, Washington County

Washington Co. Land Use and Transportation accepting comments on 2019-2020 work program

The former Balm Grove Tavern greets visitors to the Clean Water Services-owned Balm Grove property. Chas Hundley//Banks Post

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Public comment on the Draft 2019-20 Long Range Planning (LRP) Work Program is being accepted by Washington County Land Use and Transportation (LUT) staff now through February 21.

While a dry subject for some, the document will guide Washington County LUT staff in the coming year as they work on ordinances, projects, and transportation and community planning activities in Washington County, much of which will have a direct impact on residents in our newspaper’s coverage territory.

The planning document in its entirety can be read here.

At the end of this article, ways to send your comments to county staff are outlined; read on for a highlight projects with the most impact to the area our newspaper covers.

The document divides projects into three tiers.

“Tier one are the highest priority, the major projects, the ones that we expect to be able to do this year,” said Theresa Cherniak, Principal Planner with LUT, at a January 22 Washington County Board of Commissioners work session in Hillsboro.

Tier one tasks also include many day-to-day activities by LUT staff, such as support for the Washington County Planning Commission, Geographic Information Services (GIS) services, and transportation planning support.

Tier two tasks are either scheduled later in the year, or are tasks that lack funding or resources, but could replace a tier one task that falls through, or if be accomplished as resources become available.

Tier three tasks are ordinances and projects that could be addressed in years to come but could also be dropped from LUT work programs due to lack of Board support or resources.

Here are just some of the recommendations enclosed in the document:

Tier one

Housing affordability land use changes:

In collaboration with the Housing Services and Community Development departments, modify County regulations to encourage development of a greater variety of housing types and increase supply of affordable housing.

Floodplain changes:

In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) required changes to local floodplains to remain compliant with Oregon’s National Flood Insurance Program, according to LUT staff.

To codify these requirements, Washington County must submit ordinances, the first of two possible ordinances, Ordinance No. 845, already filed with hearings expected in March and April. Additionally, expected mapping changes to the McKay Creek basin may prompt a second ordinance to update a portion of the county’s Community Development Code (CDC). The McKay Creek Basin is part of the Dairy-McKay Watershed, which includes Buxton, Manning and Banks, according to the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.

Short-term rentals issue paper:

Complaints from Gales Creek residents and others prompted LUT staff to recommend an issue paper exploring opportunities and issues surrounding short-term rentals listed on vacation rental websites such as Airbnb. Should this be adopted, the county will look into regulating short-term rentals in Washington County. This task has been on the county’s to do list since 2015 as a “tier three” item.

Marijuana regulations status report:

Still something of a fledgling legal industry, this task would seek a report on the county’s implementation of regulations adopted in 2015 allowing recreational cannabis facilities. Side note: in Washington County, Banks and Durham are the only cities to allow cannabis processing in a commercial zone. 

Minor Comprehensive Plan amendments: A handful of items that LUT staff say are minor but important, one to watch would be changes to allow expansion of the Hagg Lake/Scoggins Dam at the request of Clean Water Services. This project has a direct correlation to the Balm Grove dam removal project in Gales Creek, a project spearheaded by Clean Water Services to mitigate adverse effects to fish habitat caused by the proposed expansion of the Scoggins Dam.

Another would be to consider updating state law references for solar farms, spawned by an email from Verboort-area resident Gary Post, who submitted an email to raise concerns about new solar farms popping up in rural Washington County on high-value farmland.

Similar concerns were viewed and acted on by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), a citizen commission appointed to review and make changes to rules in response to legislation and stakeholder groups in regards to land conservation and development.

On January 24 & 25, the commission met in Salem and adopted temporary changes to current criteria for approving solar facilities on high value farmland.

“The purpose of the temporary rules is to provide additional protection for a subset of the best high-value farmland (Class I, II, prime and unique soils) and authorize a new opportunity to increase the size of solar facilities where there is a commitment to maintain commercial farm uses (“dual use”),” read a January 29 press release from Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Adoption of permanent rules is postponed until March 2019; a public comment period is open until February 15. Comments can be submitted by emailing [email protected] or or mailing to:

Land Conservation and Development Commission 

Attn: Amie Abbott, Commission Assistant Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development 

635 Capitol Street NE, Ste. 150 Salem, OR 97301

Tier Two

Cidery regulations:

While many are familiar with our many wineries in the area, a lesser-known industry could see some help with a state law (SB 677) passed in 2017 which allows counties to establish rules to allow visitor activities and facilities nearly identical to existing rules and regulations for wineries.

Submit comments by February 21 in one of the following ways:

Email: [email protected].

Include full name, street address, company/organization affiliation (if applicable) and other relevant contact information

Mail: Long Range Planning Section, Department of Land Use & Transportation, 155 N. First Ave., Ste. 350 MS14, Hillsboro, OR 97124

In person: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday at the Adams Crossing building, 161 NW Adams Ave. Hillsboro

According to LUT staff, all comments received by February 21 will be provided to the Washington County Board of Commissioners prior to adoption of the final work program. 

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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