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Planning for industrial and employment land

Planning and conservation    Planning library    Industrial and Employment Land

Learn how the Metro Council ensures a 20-year supply of industrial and other employment land as it plans the urban growth boundary.

One of the most important parts of Metro’s mission is to promote and sustain a strong and competitive regional economy. One of Metro’s responsibilities is the protection of a diverse group of industrial and employment lands throughout the region to provide for good jobs and enable the efficient movement of goods and freight. The value of large public and private investments in these lands – such as ports and other freight facilities, for example – can be lost if they are converted to other uses.

Metro addresses employment lands in three categories: regionally significant industrial areas, other industrial areas and employment areas. These areas are officially designated on a map approved by the Metro Council. Regional protections of these areas are described in Metro code and are reflected in city and county zoning.

Download a map of the region’s industrial and employment areas

Regionally significant industrial areas

Regionally significant industrial areas are those industrial areas near the region’s most significant transportation facilities that enable the efficient movement of freight. RSIAs also include other areas most suitable for the movement and storage of goods.

Because of the significance of these areas to the region’s overall economy, they are regulated to ensure their continued use and availability as industrial lands. While cities and counties have zoning authority for these areas, Metro’s code places limits on the size and location of new buildings for retail commercial uses, such as stores, restaurants, and medical offices, so that these businesses primarily serve the needs of workers in those industrial areas.

Metro restricts the placement of schools, places of assembly (20,000 square feet or larger), and parks in RSIAs. Metro also limits the division of lots 50 acres in size or larger in order to maintain an adequate supply of larger-lot industrial sites for current and future employment needs.

Other industrial areas

Industrial areas that are not designated as RSIAs are important to the region’s economy but are not necessarily located near the most important regional transportation connections. These areas also enjoy regional protections against certain types of non-industrial uses and to ensure efficient movement of freight along main roadways. Many of the limits on creating new industrial lots smaller than 50 acres still apply, though cities and counties have some additional flexibility in zoning.

Employment areas

Employment areas include a mix of employment uses and may feature higher concentrations of office and retail-oriented businesses. Retail businesses in these areas primarily serve those who work in other businesses within these areas. This distinguishes employment areas from neighborhood business districts and other commercial areas that cater to nearby residents or other guests.

Metro places some limits on the types of commercial retail uses that cities and counties may allow in employment areas in order to ensure that these commercial retail uses are appropriate in type and size to serve needs of businesses, employees and residents of these areas.

Title 4 of Metro’s Urban Growth Management Functional Plan, located in Metro Code Chapter 3.07, provides greater detail of Metro’s policies relating to the protection of RSIAs, other industrial areas and employment areas.

Download a copy of Metro’s Urban Growth Management Functional Plan (132 pages)

How Metro plans for industrial and employment lands

Under state law, Metro is required to provide a 20-year supply of land within the urban growth boundary for residential and employment uses. The supply is reviewed every five years. In its review, Metro evaluates the region’s future need for lands for industrial and non-industrial employment growth.

The most recent review was completed in 2009. That review, which resulted in an urban growth report, indicated that the region already had a sufficient supply of office, retail and light industrial lands within the urban growth boundary to serve future employment needs through 2030. The urban growth report indicated that the region needed to add lands for future industrial employers who might require sites of 50 acres or larger. As a result, in October 2011, the Metro Council added 1985 acres to the urban growth boundary, of which 330 acres were set aside for future large-lot industrial employment.

Learn more about the urban growth report
Learn more about the 2011 urban growth decision

The next review of the urban growth boundary will take place in 2014.

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