Significant Natural Resources

Project Manager Michelle Miller, Senior Planner | 503-846-8101
 

Significant Natural ResourcesThe Significant Natural Resources (SNR) Program Review and Assessment (SNR Report) is a comprehensive examination of Washington County's Goal 5 program as it relates to natural resources in the urban area and provides a road map for modifications to County regulations to address identified issues.

The SNR Assessment includes Technical Appendices and a Public Input and Engagement Report, which documents public feedback received.

This project was part of the 2018-19 Long Range Planning Annual Work Program, resulting from community concerns about the County’s SNR protections in the development review process, particularly on lands with wildlife habitat.

Staff research included:

  • Review of local, state and federal regulations and Land Use Board of Appeal (LUBA) decisions concerning significant natural resources.
  • Historical review of the County’s natural resource inventory, program and regulations.
  • Review of the County's land use review processes.
  • Public engagement including Community Participation Organizations (CPOs), developers and others.
  • A five-week open house that included background, key findings, a timeline and survey.
  • Review of land use decisions involving significant natural resources.
  • Review of the County's tree removal and permit requirements.
     

About Significant Natural Resources

The County’s significant natural resources, including riparian areas, water areas, wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, are shown in community plans and the Rural/Natural Resource Plan.

Statewide Planning Goal 5 requires local governments to identify significant natural resources and to adopt programs to protect and classify these important natural areas. The County inventoried locally significant natural resources, including fish and wildlife habitats, and adopted policies and standards in the early 1980s.

The Community Development Code Section 422 includes significant natural resource requirements for proposed development in the County’s urban unincorporated area. The regulations allow for limited development in areas with significant natural resources while providing appropriate protection or mitigation of impacts. If a proposed development interferes with or impacts a protected area, the developer must provide recommendations to reduce the impact and/or offset any loss of habitat.
 

 Significant Natural Resources Timeline

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March 2018 – 2018-19 Long Range Planning Annual Work Program
  • The program’s annual tasks included development of an issue paper to assess the County’s Significant Natural Resource (SNR) regulations, based on community concerns regarding the County’s SNR protections in the development review process, particularly in areas with Wildlife Habitat.

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November 2018 – Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) decision
  • Warren v. Washington County and Venture Properties held that three standards in the County’s Community Development Code Section 422 were not clear and objective, and therefore could not be applied to residential development applications.
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Fall 2018/Winter 2019 – Community input
  • Public comment was critical to drafting the issue paper. Staff made numerous presentations to civic, environmental, developer and jurisdictional groups, explaining legal, environmental and development terms and hearing ideas and concerns.

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March 2019 – State Court of Appeals affirms Land Use Board of Appeals decision
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October 2019-February 2020 –  Public Comments: Draft SNR Program Review and Assessment (Assessment) 
  • Using community feedback and months of legislative, historical and environmental research, the project team completed the draft assessment and released it for public comment. Staff conducted more community presentations and launched an online open house (Oct. 21-Nov. 25, 2019) to get comments on the Assessment’s key findings and continued to solicit feedback on the assessment.
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Dec. 12, 2019:  Request for enforcement order filed
  • Resident Jill Warren petitioned Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to issue an enforcement order and injunction, alleging the County was not complying with Statewide Planning Goal 5.

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May 2020 – Final SNR Program Review and Assessment completed. 
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June 1, 2020 – Enforcement order issued 
  • Land Conservation and Development Commission found that the County was not compliant with Goal 5 since certain standards found not to be clear and objective could not be applied to development projects. The County is temporarily barred from approving new residential land division and development applications on properties within the Urban Growth Boundary that affect Wildlife Habitat. The order is effective until the County amends Community Development Code Section 422 natural resource provisions. The order stipulates that the County must make the amendments before May 1, 2021.
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July 15, 2020 – Proposed Ordinance No. 869 filed 
  • The proposed ordinance addresses concerns with standards in Community Development Code Section 422 that were not clear and objective and provides further clarity and transparency in the development review process. The ordinance is intended to ensure natural resource provisions are consistent with state and regional law and in compliance with the County’s adopted Goal 5 program.
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July-August 2020 – Public outreach on proposed ordinance.
  • Presentations on proposed ordinance before Community Participation Organizations and others, sharing information about the ordinance and reminding them of opportunities to provide testimony at public hearings. 
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August-October 2020 – Public hearings 
  • The Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners held numerous public hearings to obtain public testimony. Community input led to engrossment (changes) to the original version. Changes included additional clarification of Community Development Code regulations and specific requirements regarding plant establishment and maintenance, Preservation Area size and more.
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Oct. 27, 2020 – A Engrossed Ordinance No. 869 adopted
  • In addition to addressing Goal 5 compliance, the ordinance serves as the foundation for possible future planning work that the Board of Commissioners could ask staff to pursue, based on the findings and community feedback included in the SNR Program Review and Assessment. Other policy issues raised during public review may be considered by the Board for future work as part of Long Range Planning Work Program discussions. 
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Dec. 15, 2020 – A-Engrossed Ordinance No. 869 effective
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Land Conservation and Development Commission lifts enforcement order
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Habitat Assessment Guidelines Adopted
  • Guidelines assist applicants in following technical procedures to meet specific submittal requirements for projects with mapped SNR, areas that include Upland/Wildlife Habitat and/or Water-Related Fish and Wildlife Habit, as adopted through A-Ord No. 869. Guidelines were developed with by an environmental consultant, with input from Clean Water Services and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists.