It will be easier to build a brewery but harder to organize an outdoor festival on Oregon farmland under land use changes the Legislature approved in 2019.
Lawmakers passed a bevy of bills tweaking the statewide land use planning system this year that have implications for development of farm and forest lands.
Facilities that make wine and cider already enjoy relaxed land use rules, such as hosting lunches and dinners, which have been extended to breweries under Senate Bill 287.
Breweries may be built outright in exclusive farm use zones and conduct promotional activities under the bill as long as they annually produce fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer and grow more than 15 acres of hops.
Small-scale on-farm crop processors will face fewer restrictions under House Bill 2844, which absolves facilities under 2,500 square feet from having to comply with county siting standards for parking and landscaping. Crop processors under 10,000 square feet are already allowed outright on Oregon farmland.
Industrial developments will be permitted on farmland in 10 Eastern Oregon counties if they first conduct an economic opportunity analysis under Senate Bill 2. The bill is intended to help the economies of Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur, Sherman, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler counties, each of which can designate 10 sites totaling 50 acres for “industrial uses or other employment uses.”
Guest ranches will continue to be allowed on Oregon farmland indefinitely under House Bill 2435, eliminating the existing sunset date of 2020. Ranches will be required to report business activities to county governments under the bill to ensure they remain primarily livestock operations.
Demolished farm dwellings can be replaced under House Bill 3024 even if they haven’t been subject to property taxes for the past five years, overriding the five-year limit that the Oregon Supreme Court recently said is required under current law.
The “high-value” status of cranberry bogs will be suspended until 2022 under House Bill 2573, effectively lowering the annual revenue threshold to build dwellings on such properties from $80,000 to $40,000. The bill is meant to address the slump in cranberry prices experienced by farmers in recent years.
Second homes for family members will be permitted on Oregon forestlands under House Bill 2469 as long as the new dwellings are no farther than 200 feet from the original home and the property is managed under a written forest plan, among other restrictions. Proponents of the bill argued it would ease succession planning and mirror existing rules for family farm dwellings.
However, it will be more difficult to build new “template” dwellings on forestland under House Bill 2225, which disallows certain property line adjustments intended solely to qualify for such homes. Template dwellings are allowed on forestlands that are already fragmented by residential development, but critics claim the current system contains too many loopholes.
Outdoor festivals may face more scrutiny under House Bill 2790, which will allow county governments to require conditional use permits for events with more than 3,000 people regardless of their length.
Currently, counties may only impose such permits for outdoor mass gatherings lasting longer than five days. The bill was supported by farmers who complained that some outdoor festivals interfered with harvest operations and created safety hazards.
Apart from land use legislation, lawmakers passed several bills related to wildlife.
Farm and ranch organizations supported Senate Bill 301, which requires wildlife regulators to consider overpopulation when issuing landowner damage tags for killing elk. The landowner damage program itself, which provides tags to address property damage from elk, was made permanent under House Bill 2067. Otherwise, the program would have expired at the end of the year.
As is usually the case with any legislative session, some of the most prominent proposals failed to gain traction and succumbed to legislative deadlines.
Senate Bills 103 and 104 would have reclassified large dairies as industrial, thus removing “right-to-farm” protections against certain lawsuits and local regulations. The proposals were inspired by the implosion of Lost Valley Farm, a dairy near Boardman, Ore., that went bankrupt after numerous wastewater violations.
After an uproar from dairy farmers, both bills died in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. A scaled-back proposal that would have imposed new prerequisites for the permitting of large dairies was also killed by a legislative deadline.
A prohibition against clear-cut logging in watersheds, meant to protect water quality, outraged loggers, forestland owners and timber operators who came out in force to oppose House Bill 2656. Though the proposal was debated at length during a public hearing, the bill was never voted out of committee.
Similarly, House Bill 3044 and Senate Bill 926 — which would have imposed new aerial spraying notification requirements or banned aerial spraying on state lands, respectively — died in committee after contentious public hearings.