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PORTLAND, OR-Clackamas County officials have had their say about urbanization, and now they seek approval of their plan from the local board of commissioners. The plan would bring county ordinances regarding urbanization in compliance with statewide planning goals and guidelines. A hearing is set for November 7 by the County Board of Commissioners to approve the amendments that would bring the county in line with the state’s 19 goals and guidelines as stated by the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

This is the last part of the county’s efforts to review periodically the elements of its land-use laws and align them with the state. The county ordinances being amended are directed at Goal 14, which provides for “an orderly and efficient transition from rural or urban land use.” In essence, Goal 14′s mandate is to specify the size of allowable future rural commercial, industrial and historic development within the county depending on whether the parcel is within or outside the boundaries of unincorporated communities.

“We don’t want big boxes,” says Lorraine Gonzales. “We want to eliminate them.” Gonzales is a county land-use planner who is responsible for researching and writing the verbiage of the amendments.

As for property classified as Rural Commercial, Section 505 deems all pre-existing commercial uses as grandfathered in under the new law, thereby keeping them from being reclassified as non-conforming uses. Under the newly rewritten ordinance, however, the scale of commercial uses within a particular building has changed. Once the new law takes effect, all new commercial uses within an unincorporated community are limited to 4,000 sf of space per use. All uses outside of an unincorporated community are limited to 3,000 sf. All preexisting uses within the unincorporated community will be allowed to expand to 4,000 sf or an additional 50% of floor space, whichever is greater. All preexisting uses outside an unincorporated community may expand to 3,000 feet or an additional 25% of floor space, whichever is greater.

Under Section 604, all property classified as Rural Industrial will be deemed allowable uses and not reclassified as nonconforming if established on or before the date the new law takes effect. All new uses may take up to 10,000 sf of floor space if within an unincorporated community, and up to 7,500 sf if outside an unincorporated community.

Section 707 allows commercial use of a scale that is “appropriate to serve properties surrounding the historic overlay.” New uses within rural and natural resource land may not exceed 4,000 sf if within an unincorporated community, and 3,000 sf if outside an unincorporated community.

Gonzales says that county staff will present the planning commission’s recommendation on November 7 and hear public comment on it with time given for rebuttal. Thereafter, once the board adopts the recommendation, the proposed amendments go to the state for acknowledgement. Even after acknowledgement there is a statutory appeal period that must expire before the new laws can take effect.

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