City-owned property at the Madras Municipal Airport will soon be brought into the city's urban growth boundary, thanks to a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature July 7.
House Bill 2743 was introduced and championed by Rep. John Huffman, at the request of city and county officials, who hope that the expanded UGB will allow the city to develop airport and industrial lands much more efficiently.
"HB 2743 really was a simple bill to streamline an otherwise costly and cumbersome land-use process," said Huffman. "Even though it was simple, it took a tremendous amount of time to educate everyone in the legislative process to show the common sense of what we were wanting to accomplish."
The city currently owns 2,095 acres of land at the Madras airport, with only 920 of those acres within the UGB. Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission rules have mandated a slow, expensive process for annexing property into the UGB — a step required before the property can be developed. For example, the city recently spent about $50,000 bringing in 195 acres, so that Daimler Trucks North America could expand its truck testing facility at the airport.
"It is a very unique opportunity for the city of Madras to move its urban growth boundary around the remaining airport property, consisting of about 1,175 acres," said Gus Burril, city administrator, who, along with Janet Brown, Jefferson County manager for Economic Development for Central Oregon, worked tirelessly with Huffman to pass the bill.
Expanding the UGB to include the entire city-owned property will mean that developers won't have to obtain permits from both the county and the city.
"It has tremendous benefits for Madras, including streamlining the permitting process for new development, allowing the city to plan for infrastructure for the whole airport, managing the airport master plan utilizing the city of Madras ordinances and development standards," said Burril.
"This area is already zoned airport management, is within an enterprise zone approved by Business Oregon, and supported by numerous agencies for inclusion into the UGB," he explained.
North Unit Irrigation District and the Central Oregon Ag Research Center, both located nearby, were among the agencies writing letters of support for the bill, which does not affect farm or rangeland.
Obtaining support for the bill, which passed unanimously in both the Oregon House and Senate, took a team effort, Brown noted. "You must work any bill through the many processes — introduction, committees, floors, etc. You have to constantly watch, read and you can't let up, or it will get lost and die."
In her letter of support for the bill, Brown wrote, "With each opportunity, we now must deal with two local governments, the FAA and then add a lengthy, expensive state UGB process on top ... Businesses do not wait for lengthy, costly government land-use processes in order to develop."
"Under current DLCD rules, the city would have to be in continual UGB expansion process for the next 10 to 15 years," she said. "Not only is this unreasonable timewise, it is also cost-prohibitive, with approximately seven expansions needed to bring in their own land at a cost, in today's dollars, upwards of $50,000 each. Not only can this small rural city not afford $350,000 to $400,000, it can't afford the missed opportunities for development and new jobs."
The bill, for which Madras is uniquely qualified, directs the Land Conservation and Development Commission to establish an economic development pilot program to promote economic development, industry growth and job creation in a rural area with at least an 8 percent unemployment average over the preceeding five years.
The city will pay a maximum of $90,660 for expenses for the program over the biennium that began July 1.
Huffman introduced the bill Feb. 1, and successfully shepherded it throughout the legislative session, ending with the passage of the amended bill on July 7.
"Without Rep. Huffman, we would not have passed HB 2743-A, plain and simple," Brown said. "It took many hours of emailing, calling, writing letters, meetings and tours to share why we needed this bill and then start the process and move it through all the hoops and jumps to final passage and to the governor's desk for signature."
Throughout the process, Huffman was hopeful, but never certain that the bill would be passed by both the House and Senate.
"We did have a few times where we had to negotiate and compromise, but in the end, Madras and Jefferson County will be positioned to expand economic development and job growth much more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively," he said. "And, it was a cliff hanger right down to the very last day of session!"