A Win for Farmland: Court Reverses Overreaching Urban Reserves

On February 20, the Oregon Court of Appeals released a historic ruling that is a big win for Oregon farmland. By reversing Metro's urban and rural reserves proposal, the court agreed with 1000 Friends that Washington County and Metro had stepped outside the law and tried to open too much farmland to development.

1000 Friends released this statement on the ruling:

When the Oregon Legislature created the urban and rural reserves process to guide the next generation of growth in the Portland metropolitan region, they instituted clear, regional criteria for designating lands that ensured sustainable growth alongside protection of key farmland. The region’s residents, farmers, and businesses expected these to be applied consistently across the region.

Unfortunately, Washington County, with the support of Metro, chose to apply its own standards that were outside of the law. Washington County’s methods resulted in significant farmland acreage that should have been designated rural reserves but was not. Although the Land Conservation and Development Commission rejected this approach at first, it later relented.

For this reason, 1000 Friends of Oregon—upholding its mission to protect Oregon’s irreplaceable farmland while promoting great communities—appealed the reserves decision on behalf of three Washington County farmers.

Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with our position, calling Washington County’s application of its own standards a “significant” error that requires not only remanding but also reversing the entire regional reserves map.

“The court clearly understood the law and that Metro and Washington County did not apply it correctly. The substance of the law was to protect the best of the best farmland. Washington County overreached in claiming land for future development, undermining certainty for both industrial land and farmers,” said Policy Director Mary Kyle McCurdy, who argued the case on behalf of 1000 Friends and the Washington County farmers. “Washington County knew it was going outside of the law, and could not justify it. As a result, they put the entire reserves map in jeopardy.”

“These aren’t technicalities, and this isn’t complex. It’s simple,” said 1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner. “Oregonians believe industrial land and farmland stand in balance. Washington County violated the law and upset this balance.”

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