State law defines the criteria that are used to determine the order in which lands are included within the urban growth boundary. In general, high priority lands must be included before lower priority lands can be added.
Urban reserve land: Urban reserves are areas outside the current urban growth boundary that are designated as lands that could be brought inside the boundary over the next 50 years (to 2060) to accommodate growth. Urban reserves are intended to provide certainty to land owners, developers and governments as to where future development of land could occur. Rural reserves are areas outside the boundary where future urban development cannot occur for a period of up to 50 years.
Learn more about urban and rural reserves
Exception land (also known as non-resource land): Exception land is land next to the urban growth boundary that is not farm or forestland and is not designated as either urban or rural reserve. Second priority also could include farm or forestland that is completely surrounded by exception land but that is not "high value" farm or forest land.
Marginal land: Marginal land is a classification of non-resource (exception) land outside of designated urban and rural reserves that allows dwelling units on exclusive farm use land. Marginal lands are unique to Washington County.
Farm or forest land: Within this category, soil class or forest productivity further sets priorities. Priority is given to the area of lower productivity. In other words, the best, most productive farm or forestland outside of designated urban and rural reserves is the last land to be considered for inclusion in the urban growth boundary.
Oregon law requires the Metro Council to study the capacity of the existing urban growth boundary every five years to determine whether it can accommodate the population and employment growth that is forecast for the next 20 years. This study results in an urban growth report.
If the urban growth report indicates that the existing urban growth boundary provides sufficient capacity to accommodate the growth that is forecast for the next 20 years, no urban growth boundary expansion is needed.
If the urban growth report indicates that the existing urban growth boundary does not have sufficient capacity to accommodate the 20-year growth that is forecast, the Metro Council will first work with local governments to determine whether steps can be taken to enhance the efficiency of land inside the existing boundary to accommodate more growth. These steps may include upzoning, increased investments in transportation or other public infrastructure, redevelopment of brownfields, and other measures that can be expected to result in new development within the boundary to accommodate more housing and jobs over the next 20 years.
If these additional steps are sufficient to accommodate all of the housing and employment growth that is expected for the next 20 years, no urban growth boundary expansion is needed. If, after these efficiency measures are taken, there remains a need for additional capacity within the boundary to meet the forecast growth, the Metro Council will consider boundary expansions, following the priorities outlined above. Urban reserve lands will be the first lands studied and considered for possible expansion. Lower priority lands will be considered only if certain growth needs cannot be met by expanding the urban growth boundary into urban reserves.
Once an urban growth report is completed, the Metro Council has up to two years to consider a possible expansion of the urban growth boundary. The most recent urban growth report was accepted by the Metro Council in December 2009. In December 2010, the Metro Council adopted policy changes that focus more growth inside the existing urban growth boundary. In October 2011, the Metro Council voted to make modest adjustments to the urban growth boundary to accommodate future housing and employment growth.
The Metro Council can, under certain circumstances, expand the urban growth boundary to meet immediate needs to provide lands for specific purposes that cannot be accommodated within the existing urban growth boundary and cannot wait until the completion of the next urban growth report. This rarely happens. In some cases, local governments may petition the Metro Council to consider an urban growth boundary expansion outside of the five-year review cycle in order to meet more immediate regional economic needs. (These petitions cannot be made in the year in which an urban growth report is required to be completed.) Since the Metro Council is required to maintain a 20-year supply of land within the boundary for future jobs and housing and review that supply every five years, petitioners must address extensive criteria to justify such a narrowly targeted boundary expansion outside of the normal review cycle.
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.
The urban growth report helps inform a regional vision for how and where to grow over the next 20 years.