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Rurban Living

Pete Springer/OPB

We first heard about Larry Thompson’s plans to blur the urban/rural line about a month ago. His basic idea is to keep about 20 of his best-producing acres as working farmland, and to develop the remaining 60 or so acres around this agricultural core. This would mean up to 600 housing units of varying sizes, an “eco-resturant,” and a community kitchen or education center where people could preserve their bounty or learn new gardening techniques. He wants to draw a blend of urban retirees and young families — and everyone in between — all seduced by a more tangible connection to land and food.  More grandly still, he hopes to create a model for smaller farms within the UGB that could prove economically and socially viable for generations to come. (For more background, check out this profile of Thompson from last July.)

He has fans and detractors. Some people say that there’s no need to create a new land use designation — that current zoning would allow Thompson to do everything he wants. (Thompson isn’t sure.) And others worry that encouraging farming inside the UGB will end up pushing the boundary even further into land that’s now protected from development. But still, many of the people I talked to in preparation for this show expressed the basic sentiment that — even if there are many details to be worked out — Larry Thompson could be on to something.

We’re trying a slightly different model for this show. Weather permitting, we’ll record out conversation in the middle of one of Larry’s fields. (If the weather turns nasty, we’ll set up in his barn.) That means no live calls, but you can still get in on the conversation here, before-hand.

What do you make of Larry Thompson’s idea? Is development, paradoxically, the way to save farmland? Is this a model to emulate or a Damascus peculiarity? Would you move to a new house on an old farm — with the attendant noise and dust and manure that come with growing food?

damascus farming land use ugb issues site

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