Connect with Metro
503-797-1804 TDD
503-797-1797 fax

Urban growth boundary versus the Metro boundary

Planning and conservation    Regional planning and policy    urban growth management    Urban growth boundary    Boundary differentiation

The urban growth boundary and the Metro jurisdictional boundary are not the same line. Some areas are inside the urban growth boundary but outside the Metro boundary, and some areas are inside the Metro boundary but outside the urban growth boundary.

Download map belowWhy two boundaries?

Although both boundaries were originally created in the 1970s, they were drawn by two different entities for two different purposes:

  • The urban growth boundary was originally drawn by the Columbia Regional Association of Governments, which was made up of representatives of cities and counties. The urban growth boundary is a land use boundary dividing the urban area within the boundary from rural areas outside it. These rural areas are protected from urban-type land uses such as commercial or industrial activities or subdivisions on lots smaller than two acres.
  • The Oregon Legislature drew the Metro boundary, which serves as the agency’s political boundary. Metro was charged with providing planning, policy making and services to preserve and enhance the region's quality of life. The land inside the Metro boundary has elected representation on the Metro Council and is subject to Metro’s regulatory and taxing authority.
    Learn more about Metro's mission and history

People who live inside the urban growth boundary, but outside the Metro legal boundary are not subject to any Metro taxes or regulation. They are also not represented on the Metro Council, nor can they vote in Metro elections, as only registered voters who live inside the Metro legal boundary are allowed to vote in Metro elections.

Metro Council urban growth boundary authority and responsibility

State law charges Metro with the authority to manage the urban growth boundary. Metro is responsible for maintaining sufficient inventory of available buildable land inside the urban growth boundary, which may necessitate expansions of the boundary.

Although the Metro Council has authority to make regulations, provide services and exercise tax authority only inside the Metro legal boundary, state law gives Metro jurisdiction over urban growth boundary decisions, even if the land brought in is outside Metro's legal boundary. Such areas are referred to as "transition zones." Urbanization may not occur until after the property is annexed to the Metro boundary, which requires the consent of at least a majority of the voters in the area that is annexed. Annexations do not need to include the entire area at one time.

The same applies to cities and counties in other parts of the state. In central Oregon, for instance, the urban growth boundary around the Bend area is not the same boundary as the Bend city limits. The City of Bend and Deschutes County are required by state law to make urban growth boundary decisions, even where the boundary may extend beyond city or county lines.

Process to expand the Metro legal boundary

The Metro Council can vote to bring an area into the Metro boundary if petitioned by residents of that area with a request of consent annexation. Consent annexation petitions require either 100 percent of voters or 50 percent of the voters and the owners of 50 percent of the property.

Once annexed, residents may vote in Metro elections and would be subject to Metro regulations and taxes.

Related Documents

To view PDF files, download free Adobe Reader. To translate PDF files into text to assist visually-impaired users, visit

To view MOV files, download free QuickTime.

Need assistance?

Land use planning
503-797-1562 | 503-797-1930 fax

© 2014 Metro. All rights reserved.

Send questions, comments and suggestions about the website to

600 NE Grand Ave.
Portland, OR 97232-2736
503-797-1804 TDD
503-797-1797 fax