The United States has lost more than 11 million acres of farmland to development over the last 20 years. Since 2006, Rogue Advocates has worked tirelessly to ensure that planning agencies follow land use laws that protect the public interest. Here are some recent accomplishments and examples of the ways we’ve responded to emerging land use issues:
- September 2022––Participated as a stakeholder in DLCD’s Wildfire Adapted Communities stakeholder group, providing recommendations to DLCD and the legislature for how to incorporate wildfire considerations into land use planning.
- August 2022––Successfully opposed a proposed aggregate mining operation on nearly 64 acres north of Shady Cove. The application was seeking approval for mining operations all within close proximity to surrounding residences, some as close as 100 feet from the site and Trail Creek, a Rogue River tributary. The county denied the application after sustained opposition from Rogue Advocates and community members.
- June 2022––Won an appeal to LUBA preventing rezoning of nearly 90 acres of forest land intended for redevelopment as a rural residential subdivision in Josephine County. LUBA’s decision emphasized that the County’s approval improperly relied on evidence underrepresenting the property’s value as forest land and failed to demonstrate how plans for the property would retain rural levels of development.
- May 2021—Won two legal challenges at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). On May 12, LUBA agreed with Rogue Advocates that the City of Ashland did not follow their municipal code in approving the Grandview Terrace annexation just north of the city limits on Highway 99. The next day, LUBA again ruled in favor of Rogue Advocates when they remanded a Jackson County zone change approval (reducing lots from 5-acres to 2.5-acres) near Jacksonville that, if successful, would have set a precedent allowing unsustainable development of some 30,000 acres of rural lands in the county.
- January 2021—Appealed the City of Ashland’s approval of 17-acre annexation due to safety issues and car-centric development. This generated community discussion and media coverage. LUBA decided in Rogue Advocates’ favor in May 2021.
In addition, Rogue Advocates history is robust. Some historical examples of our work include:
- Jackson Co. Aggregate Mine—In 2020, we filed an appeal of Jackson County’s approval of the Box R Aggregate Mine Conditional Use Permit to authorize an aggregate mine on a 42-acre parcel zoned as forest resource.
- Phoenix & Talent Fire—In September 2020 the devastation of the Almeda fire reignited the Rogue Advocates board with fresh energy and interest in the post-fire redevelopment efforts in Phoenix and Talent.
- Reducing Rural Sprawl— In June/August 2020, we appealed Jackson County’s approval of a sweeping zone change to LUBA. The change threatened to establish a legal precedent that would exacerbate sprawling rural residential development on over 30,000 acres in the county. LUBA decided in Rogue Advocates’ favor in May 2021.
- Reducing Rural Sprawl—In July of 2012, we forced Josephine County to apply new state laws used to define forestland. The county was reluctant to apply these new laws preferring to use its antiquated system of measuring forest production, which makes it easier to convert forestland into rural sprawl. We educated neighbors about complex laws and procedures so they could effectively participate in the process.
- Maintaining Quality Farmland—In 2012, we closed the loophole in Jackson County, which allowed mining on farmland under the guise of a farm-use activity. The illegal siting of aggregate mines on farmland in both Josephine and Jackson counties has long been a problem that needlessly destroys good farmland.
- Preservation of Farmland—In 2011, we partnered with 1000 Friends of Oregon and Friends of Jackson County to lead a campaign, which involved the public in the Greater Bear Creek Regional Problem Solving Process (RPS). RPS proposed to urbanize thousands of acres of farmland in the valley. We organized citizens and farmers to testify at the hearings. Two results of this work include reduced farmland loss and increased protections for farming in the region.
- Empowering Civic Engagement—In 2011-12, we conducted a series of community-based education seminars called Envision the Rogue Valley to engage the public in envisioning the community they wanted as an alternative to sprawl-based development. These forums, attended by scores of your friends and neighbors, culminated in a report and video available here.
- Advising on Resource Land Use—The Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program attempted to develop a new definition of farm and forest lands in Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas Counties. This project was initiated by Gov. Kitzhaber’s Executive Order 12-07 and is the result of pressure from developers to change land use laws in order to make it easier to gobble resource lands. Rogue Advocates was closely involved in this process as an advocate for retaining farm and forestland into the future.
- Continuing Civic Engagement—Now that the Bear Creek Valley has a regional growth plan, cities will begin to move forward with their Urban Growth Boundary expansions. As part of our ongoing Envision project, Rogue Advocates will engage with decision makers to ensure that our recommendations and strategies become a reality.
Envision the Rogue Valley
Thanks to a generous grant from Meyer Memorial Trust, Rogue Advocates launched “Envision the Rogue Valley” to help make this vision a reality here in the Rogue Valley. Throughout 2011-2012, we worked with community members, city and county planners, transportation agencies, and other local decision-makers to create and then implement this vision in the Rogue Valley through the use of “Smart Growth” tools. (Read more about “Smart Growth” here).
*Envision Oregon was a process led by 1000 Friends of Oregon and other collaborating organizations. After two years of town-hall style meetings across Oregon, 1000 Friends published “A Blueprint for Oregon’s Future,” which outlines basic state-wide strategies for smarter land use planning in Oregon, including: 1) preserve farmland, 2) reducing our dependence on the car and 3) improving the livability of our communities.
Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program
In May of 2012, Governor Kitzhaber signed Executive Order EO 12-07 to establish the “Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program.” Depending on how it plays out, this plan could potentially become a land use program “game changer” diminishing farm and forestland and increasing rural sprawl in the Rogue Valley as well as becoming a model for other regions or counties to emulate.
The program includes three counties—Jackson, Josephine & Douglas—and authorizes them to engage in a process in which they develop a plan that allows “appropriate additional regional variation in what lands must be planned and managed as farm and forest lands” i.e. these counties get to redefine what farmland and forestland are.