The ability to build a structure or develop a parcel of property is constrained by zoning laws, but it is also limited by a city’s urban growth boundary. In recent years, urban growth boundaries have become scrutinized as more regions suffer housing shortages (and consequently higher home and rent costs). What is the urban growth boundary, and why do these rules apply to communities?
What is an urban growth boundary?
The urban growth boundary (UGB) is used throughout Oregon as part of its overall land use planning rules and procedures. UGB manages controlled urban development and prevents “sprawl.” Sprawl is when more developments are added to the fringes of a municipality that expand its borders while large segments of open space remain within the city itself. There are other reasons for UGBs, including:
- Safeguarding adequate farm and forest lands,
- Supporting public transportation plans and initiatives, and
- Coordinating with public utility and municipal infrastructure planning.
In Oregon, all incorporated cities have an urban growth boundary. Establishing the UGB begins with forming a 20-year plan to ensure adequate land is available for development within its borders. The goal is to use the land efficiently while providing for more livable, walkable, and densely built communities. For cities with over 2,500 residents, the document must also include a transportation system and public utility plan.
Can an urban growth boundary change?
Yes, Oregon’s planning commission recognizes that communities change over time, which means the UGB must also. One of the most common reasons a UGB must change is population growth. Portland State University tracks population data to help cities estimate how many residents to expect in their areas in the future. City planners use this data and reports of buildable lands to create a housing needs analysis to determine whether the community’s needs can be met with the current UGB. Other considerations are also taken for economic development, such as expanding the UGB for more industrial development.
Do you have questions about how the urban growth boundary impacts your plans?
Before you invest in a parcel of property or decide to further develop your own, it’s essential to consult with professionals who can walk you through all of the land use issues you need to consider. At Richard Stevens & Associates, we specialize in assisting our clients with obtaining rural and urban land use permits. We can help you consider the pros and cons of different options so you’ll feel confident about your final decision. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals.