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Continuing the Debate: Where to Locate Solar Energy Facilities

· alternative energy,EFU zone,oregon land use,solar energy

By: Rand Campbell

An earlier blog post addressed a decision by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in the case 1000 Friends of Oregon v. Jackson County. The Board reversed approval by Jackson County to develop a solar facility on land zoned exclusively for farm use (EFU). Recently, the issue was reconsidered on appeal. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the decision to reverse the County’s approval but cited different rationale for their reasoning.

Initially, LUBA determined that industrial development of rural land could not be justified. LUBA
reasoned that the solar energy facility did not meet the requirements of the exception because it was not dependent on a unique resource located on the EFU land and the County was not required to facilitate energy development.

While upholding the reversal of the County’s approval, the Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed in part with LUBA’s reasoning. The Court agreed with LUBA’s conclusion that the applicable administrative rule (Goal 13) does not require counties to facilitate the development of energy facilities. Siding with LUBA the Court found that this means that development should be “managed and controlled” to conserve energy. However, the Court disagreed with LUBA’s conclusion that the proposed solar facility was an “industrial development” stating that an “energy facility” does not fall into this category.

For now, the ruling has blocked the solar project forcing the developer to re-apply if they want to take another run at gaining approval for the solar facility. As Oregonians continue to work to promote renewable energy sources, this decision highlights the importance of balancing renewable energy while also preserving farm and forest land important to both our environment and our local economies.

Rand Campbell is a law student at Willamette Law. When he graduates in 2019, Rand is interested in practicing land use law in Central and Eastern Oregon. Van Vactor Law LLC is excited to have him as an extern this summer.

Van Vactor Law LLC is a Deschutes County based land use law firm. Will Van Vactor is an Oregon land use attorney.


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