One of Metro’s responsibilities is to protect industrial and employment lands that provide good jobs. As part of the urban growth boundary process, Metro maps industrial and employment lands in three categories:
Regionally significant industrial areas are near major transportation facilities that enable efficient movement of freight, and movement and storage of goods. These areas are vital to the region’s economy. Along with zoning by cities and counties, Metro also regulates them to ensure their continued use and availability as industrial lands via:
- limits on the size and location of new buildings for retail uses such as stores, restaurants and medical offices, so that these businesses primarily serve the needs of workers in those industrial areas
- restrictions on placement of schools, places of assembly (20,000 square feet or larger) and parks
- limits on division of lots 50 acres or larger in order to maintain an adequate supply of larger-lot industrial sites.
Industrial areas are not necessarily located near the most important regional transportation connections. They also enjoy protections against certain types of non-industrial uses and for efficient movement of freight. Many of the limits on creating new industrial lots smaller than 50 acres still apply, though cities and counties have more zoning flexibility
Employment areas include a mix of employment uses. They may feature higher concentrations of office and retail businesses. Retail businesses in these areas primarily serve workers nearby. This distinguishes employment areas from neighborhood business districts and other commercial areas that serve both nearby residents and visitors.
Metro places some limits on types of retail uses cities and counties may allow in employment areas; its goal is to ensure these retail uses are appropriate in type and size to serve needs of businesses, employees and residents of these areas.
Availability vs. readiness
In its review every five years of lands within the urban growth boundary, Metro evaluates whether enough land is available to support industrial and non-industrial employment growth over the next twenty years.
The revised draft 2014 Urban Growth Report, released in September, indicates that under existing local and regional plans there is a sufficient supply of office, retail and industrial land to serve employment needs through 2035 at all but the highest end of the range of forecast job growth.
However, the 2014 update of the Regional Industrial Site Readiness Project inventory suggests that acreage alone is not enough to support new jobs. According to the report, the biggest barrier to new industrial development in the region currently is not land supply, but whether that land is actually ready for development.
Getting land ready
A variety of barriers prevent many available industrial sites in the region from being ready for near-term development, including inadequate transportation, water or sewer connections; required environmental mitigation or brownfield cleanup; and a need to assemble small parcels.
Metro works with partners in local government, business and community organizations on a variety of strategies to make more industrial land ready for development in the region. These include:
Title 4 of Metro’s Urban Growth Management Functional Plan, in Metro Code Chapter 3.07, details Metro’s policies relating to the protection of RSIAs, other industrial areas and employment areas.