"What we are trying to do is identify a way to provide a little more flexibility to more rural jurisdictions to allow land that is of low or no value to commercial farming or forestry to be used in an alternative method," said Douglas County Planning Director Keith Cubic.
"We looked at soils, viticultural [grazing] boundaries," Cubic said. "All of those factors were put together before they were disqualifying features."
That's a claim disputed by Greg Holmes, food systems programs director for 1,000 Friends Of Oregon.
"This is the type of land where our cattle and hay production happens, where our wine grapes happen, and other high-value crops to the state of Oregon happen," Holmes said. He pointed out there's land with similar soil types and characteristics across the state.
"It may be relatively less productive than some other lands, but if we were to suddenly take this type of land and call it non-resource land anymore and then multiply that across all the counties across the state ... we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural lands," Holmes said.
Douglas County commissioners could approve the plan this week. But they may also delay the decision to allow for more public input.
If the initial plan is approved by the commissioners, the idea would still need to go through a legislative process or a quasi-judicial process before the land could actually be rezoned, Cubic said. While he expressed support for Oregon's land-use system, he believes it could be more flexible.
"There’s land that’s neither farm nor forest that is not sufficiently addressed by the statewide planning program," Cubic said. "So our focus is first on those lands."