An attempt to rezone more than 400 acres of Marion County farmland for industrial use has been stopped by the State Court of Appeals.

The City of Woodburn wanted to expand its urban growth boundary into more than 400 acres of surrounding farmland, and Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Department (LCDC) approved the idea in spring 2011.

But a consortium of groups, including 1000 Friends of Oregon, Friends of Marion County, the Marion County Farm Bureau and individual farmers, opposed the ruling.  On January 2, 2014, their position was upheld.

“Marion County farmland in the French Prairie area surrounding the City of Woodburn is the most valuable land for farming use in the State, and indeed in the country,” says 1000 Friends of Oregon’s Roger Kaye.  “It is class I and II soils, and some Class III.”

The Court of Appeals agreed with those that wanted the urban growth boundaries to stay where they was because “the LCDC … did not adequately explain why the expansion of its UGB to include an additional 409 acres for industrial use is consistent with pertinent law.”  In this, the court was referring to the way Woodburn asked to add land outside its boundary when there was more than that amount still undeveloped inside it.

“1000 Friends stood with local farmers in this case because once our best farmland it gone, it’s never coming back,” said 1000 Friends of Oregon Policy Director and Staff Attorney Mary Kyle McCurdy, who represented the group to the court.  “Agriculture is Marion County’s top industry, and the second-largest in the state.  When a city proposed to open some of the world’s best farmland to development, they must be held to the highest standard.”

Woodburn City Administrator Scott Derickson expressed disappointment in the decision.  Quoted in the Woodland Independent, Derickson said, “Hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, local jobs, improved streets, public safety resources and an overall improved economic climate for our community continue to be in limbo.”

The issue of the acreage in question has been unsettled for years.  The City of Woodburn first requested the boundary expansion in 2005, and the LCDC approved it in 2007 – only to have its decision reversed by the Court of Appeals in 2010 for reasons similar to the ones the same court gave earlier this month.

“1000 Friends and Friends of Marion County are not anti-growth and do not hate business, Kaye says.  “Cities need investment in infrastructure to make their existing employment land supply ready-to -go, whether for a new or an existing business.”

The City of Woodburn still has the option of petitioning the Oregon Supreme Court to hear the matter.