Central Oregon Landwatch v. Deschutes County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Land Use
  • Date Filed: 08-17-2015
  • Case #: 2015-034
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Bassham
  • Full Text Opinion

ORS 215.283(2)(c) demonstrates that the adjective “private” is intended to distinguish privately-owned and managed recreational lands from publicly-owned and managed recreational lands, rather than pertaining to the exclusion of the public in general.

Central Oregon Landwatch (Landwatch) challenged the county’s decision approving a wedding event facility on 1.6-acres of land zoned for exclusive farm use (EFU). In 2011, the owners began to use the 1.6-acre parcel to conduct commercial weddings and other social events, which resulted in a code enforcement complaint. The property owners then sought county approval of the wedding event facility under the private park exception in ORS 215.283(2)(c). County staff approved the proposed use, but conditioned approval by requiring that the private park be open for events only one weekend day per week throughout the summer and that the events would be limited to a maximum of 250 guests. Reviewing the staff decision, the board of county commissioners approved the application, adopting the staff decision and findings and including additional findings and conditions. Landwatch subsequently appealed to LUBA, assigning as error four aspects of the county’s decision.

In its first assignment of error, Landwatch argued that a defining characteristic of a “private park,” as opposed to a public park, is that a private park is not open to the general public, and since the property is open to the public, the use of the property is in conflict with the definition of a private park. In that assignment of error, Landwatch additionally argued that an event venue is not a recreational use. LUBA agreed with Landwatch in part using a causation test set forth in Smalley v. Benton County, LUBA No. 2014-110 (2015). LUBA reasoned that but for the event, the public would not engage in recreational activities on the property. The first assignment of error was partly sustained, and subsequent assignments of error were not considered because the property “violates a provision of applicable law and is prohibited as a matter of law.” OAR 661-010-0073(1)(c). REVERSED.