Proposal to build homes on exclusive farm land moves to House

Sen. Lynn Findley on Wednesday talks about a bill proposing allowing exclusive farm use land to be rezoned for building homes if that land is non-viable farm land, saying it impacts an area that is equivalent "to a small eyebrow of Malheur County."

ONTARIO

Members of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board are hoping a bill to allow building homes on land that is zoned ‘exclusive farm use' will get through the Oregon Legislature on its second try, having been passed in the Senate by a narrow margin on Wednesday. Senate Bill 16, if passed will allow Malheur County to partition and rezone up to 200 acres within the Economic Development Region from ‘exclusive farm use’ to ‘residential use.’

A similar bill was introduced in the 2019 Legislature, which passed in the House but failed to get through the Senate.

This year, State Sen. Lynn Findley, sponsored and carried the bill to the Senate floor, noting the Economic Development Region only includes the area up to 20 miles west of border with Idaho, from Annex south to Adrian.

“It’s a small eyebrow of Malheur County,” he said.

It would allow up to 100 two-acre lots on non-viable farm ground, Findley said, with soil classes 4-8. The lots will have deed restrictions protecting farming practices, he added.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, speaking in support of the bill said, “this is a bill that addresses the rural//urban divided. … It does not undermine our wonderful land-use planning system.”

In closing, Findley said “the essential key is planning. It is not a public program that will expand.”

In opposition, Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, said this is an issue that should be dealt with by the body that does that — probably the county — and not something that should be brought to the legislature.

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