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The Early Days of Oregon’s Land Use Planning

· oregon land use,oregon history,land use law

By: Rand Campbell

Oregon’s land use planning system began in 1919 when legislation granted cities the authority to develop plans and land use regulations. Additional legislation extended this authority to the counties in 1947 to control expanding development on the fringe of cities, as they grew rapidly following WWII. These laws gave the counties the power to form planning commissions which would recommend comprehensive plans originally called “development patterns.”

During the 1960s Oregon experienced rapid growth which fueled suburban sprawl. New development expanded into farmland, especially in the Willamette Valley. Oregonians saw this as a significant environmental problem. Ultimately, farmers started the push for statewide land use planning as a way to conserve agricultural land.

In 1973, the legislature passed SB 100 which directed the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to establish statewide planning goals. It also required counties and cities to develop comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances that would govern the development of land and provide a system for land use planning in each county and city.

By the 1980s and 1990s, land use planning in Oregon was seen as a model by other states. Its most essential attributes have been its stringent procedures, consistency between state and local standards, use of urban growth boundaries, and emphasis on protecting resource lands and affordable housing. Versions of these early enactments persist today as Oregon continues its path as a leader in land use planning and conservation.

A detailed history of Oregon’s land use system can be found in The Oregon Encyclopedia at

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. After serving as an extern for the firm this past summer, Rand is now working for Van Vactor Law LLC as law clerk.

VV Law is an Oregon land use law firm. Will Van Vactor is the founder and has been a practicing Oregon land use lawyer since 2007.


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