Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

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Changes made to rules governing housing development in forests, floodplains

PMG FILE PHOTO - New forestland property rules going into effect in November 2021 could limit housing development for contiguous parcels.  House Bill 2225, approved by the state Legislature last year, closes loopholes that allowed for more development on forestlands than intended.

But Matt Laird, planning manager of the Columbia County Land Development Services division, said county staff were surprised when they saw some portions of the bill.

In particular, a subsection of the law limits development to one "forest template dwelling" per tract in most circumstances. Previously, one home could be allowed per property if it met all the other requirements. But a tract is defined as one or more contiguous parcels under the same ownership, Laird explained.

"For the one person who owns one piece of property out there in the forestland, it's probably not going to impact them very much," he added.

But, Laird said, someone who has purchased a property on forestland, built a home, and then purchased neighboring parcels may have intended to build additional homes on the adjoining properties. Once the new law goes into effect, that can't happen.

The amended law doesn't apply to Columbia County until November 2021, so county planning officials are spreading the word to encourage people to apply for a forest dwelling now.

After that date, however, when planners review applications for forest dwellings, they will have to base it on the ownership as of January 2019, well before the law was passed. That means property owners who currently own multiple adjoining parcels can't transfer ownership of each parcel to a different person in order to avoid the new restrictions, Laird said.

Changes have also come to the Oregon model flood hazard management ordinance, which places further restrictions on building within the floodplain zone. The floodplain maps have not changed, and most of the changes to the text are just rewordings. The state and Federal Emergency Management Agency worked together to make the state's language more consistent with federal language.

The county has planned a series of open house events for property owners in unincorporated Columbia County to come speak with planners and learn more about how the changes may affect them.

The forums are also an opportunity for the county to share information and hear feedback on proposed changes to setback standards in suburban zoning districts, which pertains to how far a structure must be from the edge of a property line. The county will have a formal public hearing process before changes can be adopted, but these town halls are a casual precursor. The proposed changes would make the setback smaller, as is common in more urban areas.

Informal town halls occurring in south Columbia County are Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Port of Columbia County, 100 E. St., Columbia City; and Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Scappoose Public Library, 52469 S.E. 2nd St.

Town halls scheduled elsewhere in the county will occur Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Vernonia City Hall; Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Clatskanie People's Utility District office; and Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Rainier Transit Center.

All town halls are scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m.


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