Planning Process in Washington County

Washington County is responsible for planning land use and transportation in the rural areas of the County and urban areas outside of cities. Planning decisions at all levels must be consistent with regional and statewide planning requirements. The following describes the County's long range planning roles and responsibilities.

Who is responsible for long range planning in Washington County?


How does the Long Range Planning section organize its work?

The annual Long Range Planning Work Program is a key planning document that outlines tasks necessary to keep the Comprehensive Plan in conformance with regional, state and federal law. These responsibilities include direct involvement with the community, organizations, cities and affected county and state agencies.

Community Planning

The Community Planning group is responsible for upkeep of the county's Comprehensive Plan, including revisions to the Community Plans and the Community Development Code (CDC). Other major responsibilities include participating in regional and state planning initiatives and addressing local planning issues identified through the annual Work Program. Community Planning staff coordinates with other jurisdictions on major planning activities that affect all local jurisdictions in Washington County, providing local planning staff with a regular forum to address these efforts.

Community Planning also processes boundary changes for special service districts, including annexations and extra-territorial service line extensions.

Transportation Planning

The Transportation Planning group's primary responsibility is preparing and periodically updating the long-range county Transportation System Plan (TSP). Other duties include working with the cities of Washington County, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on regional transportation issues and initiatives, travel forecasting, oversight and coordination of the countywide Transportation Development Tax (TDT), bicycle and pedestrian planning, and planning support for LUT's Capital Project Management section, Road & Bridge Engineering section and Operations and Maintenance Division.

This group also coordinates monthly Washington County Coordinating Committee (WCCC) meetings, providing local elected officials with a regular forum to discuss transportation issues. Transportation planning activities include considerable involvement and discussion with county interest groups and residents.


How an idea/topic can be introduced into the planning process

LUOrdProcessThere are multiple ways ideas and suggested tasks are introduced into the planning process;

  • Community input, often via the Community Participation Organizations (CPOs) and their leadership group, the Committee for Community Involvement (CCI);
  • State and regional requirements for coordination and compliance;
  • Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission input;
  • Input from county staff charged with implementing the long range community plans; and
  • input from special service districts and the development community.

How an issue/idea becomes a land use regulation (brochure)

How an idea/issue can become land use regulation (video)


Annual Work Program

Each year the Long Range Planning section of Planning and Development Services prepares a draft Work Program for approval by the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The Work Program describes planning projects, potential land use ordinances, and other Long Range Planning activities for the year.

The draft annual Work Program is presented to the Board of Commissioners at the beginning of each year and is then released to the public and interested parties for review and comment in early spring and is then posted online. At the Board's request staff may prepare an issue paper to aid the Board in making a decision about the Work Program. Upon consideration of available resources and public comments submitted throughout this process, the Board of Commissioners finalizes the Work Program for adoption soon after.


Land Use Ordinances

A Land Use Ordinance adopts, amends, or repeals the provisions of an element of the county's Comprehensive Plan, including related maps, the Community Development Code or other regulation that directly governs the use of land. This is a legislative process that sets land use policy for the county. It does not include such subjects as financing public improvements, road engineering and utility standards, building code, development fees, sewer or septic regulations or nuisance control.

The Washington County ordinance season runs annually from March 1 through Oct. 31. No proposed land use ordinance may be adopted on or after November 1. If a final decision on a land use ordinance has not been reached by October 31, the ordinance is deemed rejected unless the Board continues it for consideration after March 1 of the subsequent year. There is no limit to the number of ordinances that may be introduced in any calendar year.

Staff regularly communicates throughout the ordinance season the status of an ordinance, scheduled public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners and adoption of land use ordinances. Subscribe to the Land Use Ordinances Update e-newsletter.

Watch a video about what is a land use ordinance.


Quasi-Judicial Plan Amendments

Quasi-Judicial plan amendments usually involve requests to amend the community plan maps and land use designation for a specific parcel. Quasi-judicial plan amendments differ from legislative plan amendments (i.e., land use ordinances) in that they involve a limited number of parcels. Legislative map amendments generally affect a large number of parcels or all parcels of land similarly designated and may amend the text of the plan.


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