Three counties could apply for grants to study rezoning
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The Oregon House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8 passed a bill providing three Oregon counties funding and direction to redefine agriculture and forest lands.
The committee sent House Bill 4095 to the Ways and Means Committee by a 7-3 vote despite objections from the Oregon Farm Bureau and land-use planning organizations.
The bill provides Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties access to $300,000 to redefine agriculture land and forestland and provides the state $250,000 to assist in the effort. In all, the bill has a $600,000 price tag.
The bill gives the Land Conservation and Development Commission discretion to approve the definitions, but requires the commission to consider several factors not currently in play in Oregon's land-use system, including a land's proximity to nonfarm and nonforest uses.
Farm Bureau members that testified Feb. 8 said maintaining a standard, statewide definition of farmland is vital to preserving Oregon's agricultural infrastructure.
Opponents also said authority already exists for counties to petition the state to reclassify land if county planners believe it is incorrectly zoned.
Bill backers said HB4095 could re-establish property rights that have been taken from landowners by Oregon's land-use system and could benefit county tax revenues by putting to use nonproductive farmland and forestland.