Metro manages the urban growth boundary for the Portland metropolitan area. Learn about this important land use planning tool for protecting rural lands and preventing sprawl.
Under Oregon law, each city or metropolitan area in the state has an urban growth boundary that separates urban land from rural land. Metro is responsible for managing the Portland metropolitan region's urban growth boundary.
The boundary controls urban expansion onto farm and forest lands. Land inside the urban growth boundary supports urban services such as roads, water and sewer systems, parks, schools and fire and police protection that create thriving places to live, work and play. The urban growth boundary is one of the tools used to protect farms and forests from urban sprawl and to promote the efficient use of land, public facilities and services inside the boundary. Other benefits of the boundary include:
Metro is responsible for managing the Portland metropolitan region's urban growth boundary and is required by state law to have a 20-year supply of land for future residential development inside the boundary. Every five years, the Metro Council is required to conduct a review of the land supply and, if necessary, expand the boundary to meet that requirement. When undertaking this review, Metro also considers needs for future jobs in the region during this same 20-year period.
Learn more about the guidelines for bringing land into the urban growth boundary
The Oregon Legislature also granted Metro other land use planning powers including:
The 2040 Growth Concept is our region's growth management policy; it defines development in the metropolitan region through the year 2040. The 2040 Growth Concept guides how the urban growth boundary is managed in order to protect the community characteristics valued by the people who live here, to enhance a transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods throughout the region and to preserve access to nature while protecting farmland. The 2040 Growth Concept
The urban growth boundary was not intended to be static. Since the late 1970s, the boundary has been moved about three dozen times. Most of those moves were small – 20 acres or less. There have been other times when the Metro Council approved larger additions:
The Columbia Region Association of Governments, Metro's predecessor, engaged in a complete planning process and proposed an urban growth boundary for the region in 1977. When Metro was created by voters in 1979, it inherited the boundary planning effort. A year later, the Land Conservation and Development Commission approved the boundary as consistent with statewide planning goals.
The location of the Metro urban growth boundary involved more than simply drawing a line on a map. The plans and growth projections of Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, along with 24 cities and more than 60 special service districts had to be accommodated. The current urban growth boundary encompasses approximately 400 square miles (about 257,645 acres). As of 2010, about 1.4 million people lived within the urban growth boundary. The initial urban growth boundary was based on a projection of the need for urban land as well as the land development plans of individual property owners.
Urban growth boundaries were created as part of the statewide land-use planning program in Oregon in the early 1970s. Gov. Tom McCall and his allies convinced the Oregon Legislature in 1973 to adopt the nation's first set of statewide land use planning laws. McCall, with the help of a unique coalition of farmers and environmentalists, persuaded the Legislature that the state's natural beauty and easy access to nature would be lost in a rising tide of urban sprawl. The new goals and guidelines required every city and county in Oregon to have a long-range plan addressing future growth that meets both local and statewide goals. In short, state land-use goals require:
To view MOV files, download free QuickTime.
The urban growth report helps inform a regional vision for how and where to grow over the next 20 years.
In December 2010 the Metro Council adopted an ordinance that addresses the region's housing and employment needs through the year 2030.
Read about the unique collaborative process the region used to choose the best places for future growth, identifying lands that won't be urbanized for the next 50 years as well as areas best suited to accommodate future urban development.