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Regulations and Laws

Land Use Rules

For many, rural is somewhere out in the country, someplace away from it all. True, but it can also be within a city’s boundaries or on that increasingly common area know as the Urban/Rural Interface (where urban meets rural).

Use the following information as a guide to understand the definitions, how your property is zoned and the rules governing what you can do with it. It is how Clackamas County government interprets rural, and how it applies the state and local rules and regulations. This may differ from land use rules within city limits.

Unincorporated Communities and Rural Lands

Unincorporated Communities or Rural Centers are settlements located outside urban growth boundaries in which concentrated residential development is combined with limited commercial, industrial or public uses. Rural lands are lands that are outside urban growth boundaries. These rural lands are typically suitable for sparse settlement such as small farms, woodlands or a variety of small to large acreage home sites. They typically do not have public facilities, or have limited facilities, and are not necessarily suitable or intended for urban small lot development. They are often, but not necessarily, too small to be of meaningful agricultural or forest use.

Agriculture Areas

Agriculture areas are lands in the county capable of being farmed. They are suitable for farm uses because of good soil, suitability for grazing, good climate conditions and have existing (or the potential for) irrigation. Agriculture lands have appropriate land use patterns with areas of large lots, existing farming or land necessary to support farming on land close to existing farms.

Forest Areas

Forest areas are composed of existing and potential forestlands suitable for a variety of commercial forest uses. Also included in this definition is land needed for watershed protection, wildlife and fish habitat, recreation use, lands with extreme climate, soil capable of growing trees and steep hillsides requiring vegetative cover for stability. Forestland provides buffers from small lot rural residential development, provides wind breaks, has large unpopulated areas for wildlife habitat and includes areas along scenic corridors.

Being a Good Neighbor in Farm Country

Photo courtesy of Steve Dodrill OSU EESC

Everyone has a unique reason for living in the country. Some seek peace and solitude amongst scenic splendor while others want to generate an income from their land. Both ventures are compatible when landowners recognize that being neighbors is a two-way street and show respect for each other, for their property and for their livelihoods.

Much of rural Clackamas County is made up of small working family farms. Some farms have been managed by the same family for 150 years. Clackamas County is a leading producer of agricultural products in Oregon. In addition to providing $400 million and jobs to the economy, successful farming insures future livability of rural areas and protection for open space and wildlife habitat.

Oregon’s “right-to-farm” law seeks to protect the investment farmers have made in their agricultural operations. The law limits the ability of individuals, local governments, and special districts to bring court actions or administratively declare certain farm and forest practices to be nuisances or trespasses.

Oregon’s “Right-to-Farm” Law

The Oregon “right-to-farm” law includes specific protection from legal actions because of noise, vibration, odors, smoke, dust, mist from irrigation, use of pesticides and crop production substances, and transporting or movement of farm equipment or vehicles and livestock on public roads. Oregon’s “right-to-farm” law was updated in 1993 and 1995 and is found at ORS 30.930.

What to Expect

While you may choose not to farm your land, you still live in an agricultural area. Expect to experience days when neighboring farms produce noise, dust, workers, traffic and even odors. Farmers must perform certain tasks on a schedule determined by Mother Nature and the marketplace. Plowing and planting must occur when the soil is the right temperature and dampness; nutrients or protectants must be added when the plants are hungry or have been attacked by a new disease or pest and harvest must occur when the crop is mature and the market is ready.

If the farmer raises horses or livestock, expect odors, noise, insects and the occasional escape. You may be inconvenienced a few days each year; most consider this a tiny price to pay for the benefits of open space and the views you enjoy 365 days a year.

Compromises and patience for those with different rural lifestyles are important to maintain harmony. A successful relationship will be rewarding and mutually beneficial. If you find you can’t tolerate living next to a working farm, look for a more urban setting when choosing your lifestyle.

If you need help resolving an issue with a neighbor, contact the Clackamas County Resolution Services at 503-655-8415.