1000 Friends of Oregon v. Jackson County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Land Use
  • Date Filed: 10-27-2017
  • Case #: 2017-066
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Bassham
  • Full Text Opinion

Under OAR 660-004-0022, it is not improper to approve a reasons exception to Goal 3 on two alternative bases, particularly when there is uncertainty regarding the characterization of the proposed use.

Petitioner, 1000 Friends of Oregon, appeals a county decision approving a reasons exception to Statewide Planning Goal 3 (Agricultural Lands) to site a solar power facility on 80-acres of high-value farmland. The subject parcel is high-value irrigated farmland, zoned for exclusive farm use (EFU). In 2015, intervenor entered into a long-term lease with the property owner, in order to site an 80-acre photovoltaic solar power generation facility (“solar facility”) on 90 acres of the property. However, The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has adopted administrative rules that restrict the size and density of power generation facilities, including solar facilities, on agricultural land. Under the current rules, a solar facility on high-value farmland is limited in size to 12 acres, unless an exception is taken to Statewide Planning Goal 3. In January 2016, intervenor applied to the county for a reasons exception to Goal 3. On May 10, 2017, the commissioners issued a decision approving the reasons exception to Goal 3, based on two alternative bases: (1) demonstrated need to meet the requirements of Goal 13, under OAR 660-004-0022(1)(a), and (2) rural industrial development under OAR 660-004-0022(3).

Under the first sub-assignment of error, petitioner argues that “the county erred in adopting alternative reasons exceptions under both OAR-660-004-0022(1)(a) and OAR 660-004-0022(3), because, according to petitioner, if the proposed use qualifies as “rural industrial use,” then it must be justified under OAR 660-004-0022 (3), not the “catch-all” category of OAR 660-004-0022(1), which applies to uses not specifically provided for in this division. However, LUBA disagreed, and held that it is not reversible error to justify reasons exceptions under both OAR 660-004-0022(1) and OAR 660-004-0022(3), especially when there is uncertainty regarding whether the proposed use is properly characterized as rural industrial use. REVERSED.