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|Articles - September 2013|
|Monday, August 19, 2013|
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If the property-rights movement has experienced ups and downs, so too has the housing industry, which is perhaps most affected by growth boundaries. Oregon’s population was just 2.4 million in 1973 when Senate Bill 100 passed but reached 3.9 million in 2012. As planners have sought to limit growth-boundary expansions and promote high-density housing, “we’ve done a really good job of saying what we don’t want: sprawl,” says Jon Chandler of the Oregon Home Builders Association. “But we’ve done a bad job of saying what we do want.”
Chandler believes there is a disconnect between “what we want and how it is on the ground. It’s one thing to target an area around transit nodes for high-density condos and apartments,” he says, but particularly outside Portland the market isn’t always ready for it. “It doesn’t matter what the planning calls for if we can’t finance, build and sell it. The real-estate market has regulations from lenders, expectations from customers; it is driven by profit. Planners often get ahead of the market. If I build something that won’t sell, I’m not going to build it twice.”
Chandler is not out to eradicate growth boundaries altogether and turn Oregon’s urban areas into sprawling cities like Houston or Atlanta. Rather, he believes the sprawl threat has been overstated. “The majority of the state’s population is on 2% or 3% of the state’s land mass,” he says. “In terms of farmland preservation, you could double or triple the size of every city and you wouldn’t strongly impact it.”
Successful land-use policy, however, is not just a matter of either-or — of preserved farmlands or expanded growth boundaries. To the agriculture industry, which includes wineries, there is increasing interest in allowing farm and vineyard lands to engage in direct sales. “There’s a lot of interest,” says the Oregon Farm Bureau’s Katie Fast.
As vineyards and a range of other crops have made Oregon a world-renowned food-and-drink destination, lawmakers in Salem have continued to introduce legislation designed to expand the kinds of events allowed. Passed in 2011, Senate Bill 960, for example, expanded allowance for agri-tourism and other commercial activities in agriculturally zoned areas. House Bill 280, passed in 2011, as well as this year’s Senate Bill 841, also expanded wineries’ ability to operate tasting rooms and host events.
“I think that’s going to be the discussion: making sure we protect the agriculture land base and infrastructure that’s needed, but that there’s a reasonable flexibility to allow folks to bring people out in agriculture tourism in a way that doesn’t imperil other farms,” Fast explains. “The difficulty is in finding that balance.”
In 1973 Oregon business was dominated by forestry and agriculture. Today the economy is more diverse, but land-use critics cite the difficulty of finding proper land for businesses like heavy industry. Business groups have argued for years that the state needs more readily available large industrial lots for big employers. But politics and competing desires for the land often make that difficult.
Over the past decade, for example, owners of the Langdon Farms Golf Club just south of Wilsonville, Chris and Tom Maletis, have tried to turn their acreage adjacent to the course into industrial land, for which there is a statewide shortage. Their property has the easy transit access industry prefers, not only the adjacent I-5 but an expanding Aurora Airport, and co-owner Chris Maletis recalls receiving letters of support from entities like the Port of Portland. But with opposition from residents and environmentalists to extending Wilsonville south of the Willamette River, the property was placed by Clackamas County into rural instead of urban reserves, part of the system created by Senate Bill 1011 in 2011 to increase long-range planning to a 50-year window.
“Our property is the poster child of what’s wrong with the system,” Maletis says. “They made a 50-year decision without even looking at the [industrial land] shortage and what lands are the most viable to take care of the needs of the region.”
In other parts of the state, though, the legislature has crafted specific legislation to streamline industrial land development. In the 2013 legislature, Senate Bill 845 would have cleared the path for a proposed 330-acre plot in North Hillsboro. That measure never advanced out of committee, but last year Senate Bill 1544 passed, enabling Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties to partner on a large-lot industrial site in Redmond. Proponents worked with 1000 Friends of Oregon, which threatened legal action, on a compromise allowing passage.
“I think the profession should be looking at ways to make Oregon’s planning more dynamic, emphasizing regional solutions instead of a one-size-fits-all land-use planning system,” says Peter Gutowsky, principal planner for Deschutes County. “These narrowly crafted projects provide examples of how the Oregon land-use program can be malleable.”
Last year the governor also signed Executive Order 12-07 allowing Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties to create a pilot program permitting these jurisdictions to create regional variation on what constitutes farm and forest lands. As the viability of different lands change, these counties will have greater flexibility in changing zoning.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
The sweltering weather didn't keep the crowds away. Although the numbers were down slightly from last year, the Oregon Food Bank raised $850,636 to fight hunger. About 80,000 people attended despite temperatures in the upper 90s.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Former Governor John Kitzhaber's resignation in February prompted some soul searching in this state about ethical behavior in industry and government.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Uncertainty in Greece and China, along with potential interest rate hikes mean investors are looking at the market and nervously questioning where they should be invested.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened its third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; another outpost in Bend broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.
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