The Role of Urban Reserves in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Region.

Mr Edward Sullivan, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, USA will discuss The Role of Urban Reserves in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Region at the 8th International Urban Design Conference being held at the Sofitel Brisbane from 16 – 18 November 2015.

Edward Sullivan

Abstract: Unique among American planning systems, Oregon has developed a comprehensive growth strategy. Rural areas are separated from urban areas by an urban growth boundary (UGB) concentrating most urban uses within the boundary and fostering policies to provide urban levels of facilities and services, as wells as varying housing densities and intensities of industrial, employment, recreational and commercial uses. The UGB encompasses existing and anticipated urban uses over a rolling 20-year period. Expansion of the UGB requires extensive study and public process and is frequently contested. Those expansions often centre on the issue of whether adding land to the UGB might be avoided by requiring more intensive use in the existing UGB.

Planning beyond the 20-year timeframe includes “urban reserves,” i.e., those lands to be given first priority for UGB inclusions beyond the initial 20-year UGB horizon. Designating urban reserves is controversial, because it allows for inclusion of lands that are suitable for farm or forest use and would otherwise be assigned to a much lower priority for UGB additions. This is especially apparent in Washington County, a Portland suburb where intense demand for additional lands for the expanding electronics industry onto excellent adjacent farmland.

This presentation will discuss the practical issues involved in seeking to provide for both employment growth and preservation of an agricultural economy in the same region. The criteria for urban reserves are intentionally loosely drawn to provide policy makers with flexibility in determining both need and the precise lands to be designated for long-range urban use. The presentation will chronicle the eight-year experiment for use of this long range planning tool and conclude with some lessons learned from that experience.

For more information on this years’ 8th International Urban Design Conference and to secure your registration  to this fantastic event please visit the conference website.


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