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County lands suitable for reserves

Planning and conservation    Regional planning and policy    urban growth management    Urban and rural reserves    Reserves overview    Land suitability

What makes a piece of ground suitable for urban development? What keeps working farms or forests in business? Which rivers, wetlands and buttes define our region? Learn which lands each county has determined are suitable for urban and rural reserves.

What is a suitability analysis?

A suitability analysis is a study of land to determine how it can be used. Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties have each conducted extensive suitability analyses of their respective lands that are outside the current metro area urban growth boundary to decide which should be considered for designation as either an urban or rural reserve.

In designating reserves, the three counties and Metro must base their decisions on a set of prescribed factors. The factors were set out in the legislation that created the reserves process. They are common sense criteria for determining the suitability of land for one use or another.

For urban reserves, the land must be suitable for building a city. It must have enough capacity to support a healthy local economy, provide a range of housing and employment and support enough density to make efficient use of infrastructure. It must have connections to existing and future roads, sewer service and water; and it must have a local provider of these services along with parks and schools.

For rural reserves, the area must be subject to urbanization (and thus warrant protection) and must be capable of sustaining long-term agricultural or forestry operations or must include significant natural features like wetlands, rivers, or buttes.

How were suitable lands chosen?

Each of the three counties considered lands within the 400,000-acre study area surrounding the current urban growth boundary. Each worked with their county reserves advisory committee and with technical experts from across the region. They consulted maps of natural features, a regional assessment of current agriculture and wildland forests and a study of the attributes of great communities. They considered current aerial photos, zoning, water and sewer serviceability and transportation concerns. They also brought in local experts on economic development, heard public testimony, applied their own knowledge of the land and considered the future plans of the cities located within their boundaries. Review the technical materials

What are the factors used to identify reserve candidate areas?

Urban and rural reserves will be determined based on factors that focus on the land's suitability for urban or rural uses. These factors were defined in Senate Bill 1011 (2007), the legislation that created the reserves designation process.

Learn more about Oregon Senate Bill 1011 (2007)

Factors considered for urban reserve designation include:

  • Can the land be developed at urban densities that make efficient use of existing and future infrastructure?
  • Does the land have enough development capacity to support a healthy economy?
  • Can water, sewer, schools, parks and other urban-level services be provided efficiently?
  • Can the land accommodate a well-designed system of streets, trails and transit?
  • Can the area be designed to preserve and enhance natural ecological systems?
  • Is there enough land to accommodate a range of housing types?
  • Can the area be developed while preserving important natural landscape features?
  • Can the area be designed to minimize conflicts with farms, forests and important natural features on nearby land, including adjacent rural reserves?

Factors considered for rural reserve designation include:

  • Is the land in an area that is otherwise potentially subject to urbanization as indicated by proximity to the urban growth boundary or proximity to land with fair market value that significantly exceeds values for working farms or forests?
  • Is the area capable of sustaining long‐term agriculture or forestry operations with features like suitable soils and available water; a large block of land with concentrated farm operations or clustered managed woodlots and compatible adjacent land uses; or sufficient agricultural or forestry infrastructure?
  • Does the area include important natural landscape features such as natural hazards; important fish, plant or wildlife habitat; lands that protect water supply and quality; features that provide a sense of place such as rivers or buttes; lands that separate cities; or lands that provide access to recreational opportunities?

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