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Rural reserves review, 2016

View open house materials and public input

Providing flexibility for future employment lands
We are reviewing three rural reserve areas to determine if it would be beneficial for long-term economic growth and job creation to change the designation of all or part of these areas to “undesignated.” 

The areas being reviewed are:

A sufficient supply of employment land is part of Clackamas County’s plan to continue increasing family-wage jobs for residents in coming decades. Recent studies have identified many challenges in the county’s employment land supply and documented a shortage in land available to support future long-term economic growth. The rural reserve designation of the areas listed above restricts new uses for 50 years.

Learn how to get involved and provide your input!

What are reserves?

The designations do not affect current zoning or allowed uses, development types or intensity. The designations do provide clarity about expected uses of the land for long-term planning or investment purposes.

Background information about urban and rural reserves in Clackamas County

Removing the rural reserve designation would not change current agricultural uses or designate the land for urban development.  It could, however, provide an option for future generations.  Together, the areas under consideration amount to less than 2% of the total rural reserves in Clackamas County.

Decision-making process

The county considered the following conditions to help determine which areas of the county had the most potential for providing employment land and could be logical extensions of current and planned urban employment areas in the future:

For each study area, we are considering long-term employment needs as well as the pros and cons of retaining or removing the rural reserve designation. 

State law requires that the factors listed below be considered when assessing land for rural reserve designation, but land that meets these factors is not required to be designated as a rural reserve. 

Rural reserve factors

Get involved

More than 400 people attended open houses held June 27–29. Review open house materials (all are pdf).

Contact Senior Planner Martha Fritzie at 503-742-4529 for questions or to submit comments.

Next steps

The board plans to reach out to other jurisdictions and agencies in fall 2016 to discuss the impact of the disincorporation of Damascus on the county’s rural and urban reserves. Since those discussions may impact decisions related to the three rural reserve study areas, no further rural reserves review meetings are planned at this time.

Urban and rural reserves


Urban and rural reserves are designed to shape what our region will look like over the next 40-50 years. Reserves are intended to determine the long-term disposition of farmland and natural areas, and provide predictability about the location of future urban growth to inform future expansions of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).

The Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) divides areas planned for urban development and distinguishes them from areas planned for rural uses. In the Portland Metropolitan Area, the regional government (Metro) is responsible for adopting the UGB and ensuring that it contains sufficient buildable land to meet projected growth.

Before 2008, state land use laws required Metro to consider current zoning (based largely on soil quality) above everything else to determine where to expand the UGB. Many people felt that, because this approach didn’t address important issues such as available infrastructure, topography, etc., it didn’t result in expansion in areas best suited for developing healthy, vibrant urban communities.

In 2007, the Oregon legislature enacted a law (Senate Bill 1011) that allowed the three Portland area counties (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington) and Metro to work together to establish urban reserves based on an expanded list of factors. Rural reserves were also allowed in order to provide long-term protection to the most valuable and financially viable farms and commercial forests, and to protect from urban development such significant natural features such as wetlands, rivers and floodplains, buttes and savannas.

Urban and rural reserves, 2008-12

From 2008 to 2010, Metro and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties worked with the public to identify urban reserve and rural reserve lands to serve the region for the next 50 years.

Each county designated its own rural reserve lands. Metro designated urban reserve lands throughout the metropolitan area.

On February 25, 2010, the Board of County Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Metro to designate 13,750 acres of urban reserves and 70,500 acres of rural reserves in Clackamas County for the next 50 years. (Multnomah and Washington counties approved IGAs with Metro the same week.) This action was followed in March and April 2010 by Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners approval of changes to the County’s Comprehensive Plan to implement the reserves. In May 2010, the Board approved a revised IGA.

In response to an oral remand from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, reserves designations in Metro and Washington County were revised early in 2011 followed by an appeal of the regional Reserves decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Urban and rural reserves, 2014-16

February 2014:  A ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals changed some of the urban and rural reserves designated by Metro and the three counties in 2010 and 2011, and affected the urban growth boundary adjustment made by Metro in 2011.

Spring 2014:  The state legislature (House Bill 4078) established new urban and rural reserves and adjusted the urban growth boundary in Washington County. The bill did not address issues raised by the Court of Appeals about a proposed rural reserve in western Multnomah County and a proposed urban reserve in the Stafford area of Clackamas County.

In addition, since the original adoption of reserves in 2010, conditions in the region and Clackamas County have changed significantly:

Because the decision about the reserves is not yet final, Clackamas County is taking the opportunity in 2016 to review several areas that are slated to be rural reserves, to determine if they are better left undesignated in order to provide more flexibility for future generations to adequately accommodate growth.   



The urban and rural reserves process in Clackamas County involved two years of study, meetings, research, public hearings and technical work.   Discussions involved a citizen committee, staff committee, the Planning Commission, the Board of County Commissioners, regional groups and dialogue with the public.

For more information, contact Martha Fritzie, 503-742-4529.

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