We have prepared some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers to help Wasco County residents and property owners understand the Land Use and Development Ordinance Update project and process. Do you have a question? You can submit one using our Ask a Planner form.

Q: What is the Land Use and Development Ordinance? A: The Land Use and Development Ordinance (LUDO) are the criteria and regulations which, in conjunction with state and federal law, govern land use planning and development in Wasco County.  When property owners require a permit for new development or uses on their property the LUDO are the rules which a permit application will be evaluated by. It also consists of procedures for application review.

Q: Why does the LUDO need updating? A: There are three main reasons driving the LUDO Update: changes to state and federal laws (required), process or other criteria improvements based on analysis, and policies and implementation strategies that were adopted as a result of Wasco County 2040, the Comprehensive Plan update.  Many of these updates have been needed for a decade or more, and the ultimate goal is to produce a better plan that is efficient and meets community needs.

Q: What is the process to update? A: The Wasco County Planning Department will take three years to update the plan.  The first year (2021) will focus on many of the required updates and process improvements.  The second and third years (2022 & 2023) will tackle updates that were generated from the Comprehensive Plan update.  All years are structured to allow the first several months of the year to staff research and technical advisory work to prepare recommended text changes and create easy to read and understand documents for the public process.  The public process will then include work sessions where the public will be asked to provide specific feedback on any proposed changes that are optional or have different possible results.  These will be done through a variety of methods including public meetings, surveys, and public comment.  Once the public has helped to shape the draft documents, they will then be taken through the legislative (rule making) process which begins with the Planning Commission.  Once the Planning Commission has a recommendation, the work goes to the Board of County Commissioners who has the ability to adopt proposed changes before the last step, which is to send to the State Department of Land Conservation and Development for approval.

Q: Are there rules and/or a plan I can read and react to? A: Proposed LUDO revisions and other supporting documents will begin to be available starting in April.  They will be shared  via the project website, newsletter, and the Wasco County website.  Residents can also request a copy be emailed, free of charge.  To have items printed and mailed, there is a Wasco County fee of $.25 per page plus postage. Follow the subject category icons to find the landing pages for updates and read drafts.

Q: How can I participate? A: Over the next several years, there will be multiple opportunities to participate and give feedback, including at work sessions, events and public hearings. Staff encourages you to submit comment at any time during the process. We have an Ask a Planner function to ask questions, surveys and polls for many of the category updates, and we welcome mailed letters, too!

Q: What is the outcome? A: We hope to develop a readable, easy to understand and up to date LUDO that will be consistent with community vision, state and federal law, and include efficiencies for the permitting process moving forward. We hope that future impacts will be positive, and ensure a healthy and successful future for our amazing County!

Community Submitted Questions:

Q: What are the wildfire protections with agritourism events and activities? A: Agritourism activities and events will be permitted in our farm zones through a subject to standards review.  They will be subject to our Fire Safety Standards when constructing new buildings.

Events and activities generally are required to comply with certain health/safety conditions including safe access/transportation, sanitation and solid waste, and specific hours of operation.  Single events must meet fire safety requirements.  We could, potentially, add fire safety requirements or the requirement applicants submit a wildfire mitigation plan with their application.  These might include plans for onsite water storage when outside a rural fire protection district, contracting with a rural fire protection district for the duration of the event, or other measures. If this is something you would like to see added to the agritourism provisions, we strongly recommend you to submit comments to this effect or take our quick poll.

Q: Is it possible to extend the notices that go out to let people know of proposed changes to zones. I watched as the distances from the property that received notifications has increased so that if you are not touching the proposed change, you may not even know about it. A: Notification buffer distances are covered in Chapter 2, Section 2.090 of the Wasco County Land Use and Development Ordinance (LUDO).  The distances are based on state law requirements (ORS 215.416(11)(c)).

In 2018, at the request of the Board of County Commissioners, staff prepared a review of notification buffers to analyze the impacts of expanding the buffers.  The analysis showed, for farm and forest zones, that expanding the buffer size would have minimal impact in most scenarios because of the average lot size (80-160 acres).  The largest impact would be felt in zones with smaller minimum parcel sizes, like rural residential.  For the average rural residential zone, expanding the buffer would increase the overall cost of an application by an average of $150.

Read the 2018 Notification Buffer Review here.

Wasco County has the ability to expand notification buffers, and we would like to hear from you.  Submit a comment to tell us in which zones you would like to see the notification buffers increased and to what distance.

Q: What are accessory forest dwellings?  Are those like accessory dwelling units? A: Accessory dwelling units are a general term for a secondary home on one piece of property.  Currently, in unincorporated Oregon, ADUs are only allowed in cases with historic homes.  Wasco County intends, if state law is amended, to revise the LUDO to permit ADUs in lands zoned rural residential by the end of 2022.

Accessory forest dwellings are secondary homes, but it is a specific use tied to commercial forestry operations.  The farm zone, for instance, has accessory farm dwellings when a large farm needs more than one home owner to work the farm.  This is the same principle for accessory forest dwellings; it is an allowance for an additional home for the owner/relative of the owner to help with a commercial forestry (logging) operation. 

The provision allowing for accessory forest dwellings, or accessory dwellings supporting family forestry, can be found in the Oregon Revised Statutes 215.757.  This is an optional use that was passed by the legislature in 2019 (House Bill 2469) and has many requirements for eligibility including:

  • Active forestry operation with a forest management plan
  • Must meet the minimum parcel size of 80 acres
  • The primary home must have been permitted prior to 1993 or as a large tract dwelling
  • The property must be within a rural fire protection district
  • The accessory dwelling must be sited within 200 feet of the primary dwelling
  • Both dwellings must be occupied by owners/relatives of the forestry operation, and a deed restriction must be placed to prohibit vacation rental
  • A deed restriction must be placed to prohibit future land divisions

Q: Why are accessory forest dwellings not proposed for the F-1 Zone? A: The F-1 zone has, as a result of a long-standing Comprehensive Plan policy, been more restrictive than the F-2 zone for the creation of new residences. (Policy 4.1.1 (b)) from the Comprehensive Plan is “Prohibit residential development in the F-1 Forest zone.”  This is reiterated in the F-1 Zone in the Land Use and Development Ordinance, under Section 3.111: “Residential development is prohibited in the Forest (F-1) Zone as the conflicts created between safe and efficient watershed management and residential development are unable to be mitigated.”  Both these statements have been in both plans since at least the early 1990s.

Q: Do the 22 lots in the analysis for possible accessory forest dwellings already have a primary dwelling? A: Our analysis was based on the requirements of state law, that a dwelling either have been permitted prior to November 4, 1993 or permitted after that as a large tract dwelling.  The 22 lots do currently have primary dwellings that meet that criteria, as well as the other eligibility criteria including parcel size and within a rural fire protection district.

Q: What happens if the accessory forest dwelling or the primary dwelling owner dies? Can it then be used as a vacation rental? A: State law is clear that the accessory and primary dwellings can never be used as vacation rentals, but does not provide a way to ensure that beyond the application review process.  Wasco County could draft a requirement to place a deed restriction to prohibit any future vacation rental. That would make a code compliance case easier to pursue.

Q: Are there any lots currently in the F-2 zone, not covered by the analysis, that could be eligible for an accessory forest dwelling? A: There are a few lots that could potentially be eligible, following an approval of a large tract dwelling.  The large tract dwelling requires 240 contiguous or 320 non contiguous acres and a forestry management plan in conjunction with a forestry operation.

Q: What are the proposed guest ranches? A: Guest ranches are a use that allows for overnight guests of up to 10 lodging units, recreational activities and some limited food services on farm zoned property with an active livestock operation.  This use has many eligibility requirements including:

  • The ranch must be at least 160 acres
  • The ranch must contain the dwelling of the livestock operator
  • It cannot be on high value farmland
  • It cannot be in a federally designated wildnerness area, wildlife refuge, area of critical environmental concern, or scenic area

The guest ranch can only provide “passive” recreational activities, like hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and hiking.  It can not provide intensive development like golf courses, water parks, or highly developed pathways.  The food service can only be provided for guests or special events. 

This use is being proposed as a conditional use (Type III) review, requiring detailed analysis to demonstrate any adverse impacts to surrounding properties can be mitigated.

Q: Can you explain what a farm brewery is? A: In 2019, with Senate Bill 287, the legislature passed a provision to allow farm breweries to be established in farm zoned lands.  The brewery must be established in conjunction with a hops farm, and can be used for the commercial production, distribution, wholesale and retail sales of malt beverages made with ingredients grown on the hop farm.

There are many eligibility requirements found in the rule (Oregon Revised Statutes 215.449) including the amount of beverages produced, the size of the farm, and the types of events and activities that can take place.

Although Wasco County does not traditionally grow hops like other regions in Oregon, staff felt it important to seek public input on whether it should be included in the farm zone. This use is being proposed as a conditional use (Type III) review, requiring detailed analysis to demonstrate any adverse impacts to surrounding properties can be mitigated.

Q: What does the new horse therapy and counseling services use entail? A: Senate Bill 1533 passed in 2018 and created a new use in Oregon farm zones to allow for horse and horse affiliated therapeutic and counseling activities.  This new use would allow farms to operate a commercial business, with required licenses, in existing buildings or new, accessory structures to offer human to horse interactions, counseling, and therapy related activities.

This use is being proposed as a conditional use (Type III) review, requiring detailed analysis to demonstrate any adverse impacts to surrounding properties can be mitigated.