Allie Colosky
The Bulletin

How to participate

Jefferson County residents can submit written comments on proposed code changes until May 18 at the Community Development Department at 85 SE D St., Madras. Comments can also be emailed to or

In addition to the comment period, the public is invited to two open houses: Tuesday or May 18, both from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the County Annex, 66 SE D St.

The proposed code changes are available at:

The Jefferson County Community Development Department is soliciting feedback from county residents regarding potential updates to zoning codes for exclusive farm use and forest management zones.

The codes outline what uses are and aren’t allowed on those lands.

The last time the county completed a comprehensive update of regulations for the two zones was in 1996, and many elements are out of date, said Jefferson Spencer, planning director and community development assistant director for Jefferson County.

“We are looking for the public to say what we like or don’t like or what to look into,” he said.

Potential regulations include both mandatory and discretionary updates and most of the changes are up to local government, he said.

“There’s mandatory and discretionary elements and we want the public to express their opinions on those discretionary elements,” Spencer said. “Most people seem to have the impression that it’s going to get worse, but in fact more things are going to be allowed and we want to strike that balance that makes sure people are doing things responsibly.”

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development worked with a consultant group to provide a set of guidelines for counties to use at their discretion. While some regulation updates are mandatory, the county is seeking feedback on discretionary updates and will act on what the public does or doesn’t want, Spencer said.

One example of a discretionary update would be the possible regulation of farm stands, he added.

“The healthiest agriculture area is around Madras and the Upper Plains, and farm stands are a good, viable opportunity to make money on the side,” Spencer said. “There’s a whole sweep of regulations that would affect that, but do we need farm stand regulations? Probably not, and that’s something we want to hear from the community.”

The state’s work on proposed codes was a way to make updating regulations easier for smaller planning departments in rural areas, said Sadie Carney, communications manager for the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

“We find that local governments are challenged in their capacity to do this work,” she said. “It’s an effort to (provide a) tool so they know for sure their codes are compliant with state regulations. Each time a legislation passes, local governments are responsible to update codes and that can be hard if your planning staff is one (person). People might be confused about whether or not it’s voluntary. We are not telling people what they must do.”

In addition to mandatory regulations that come directly from state code — such as the amount of income required to purchase a farm plot — the state mostly stays out of commercial activities in conjunction with farm use, said Tim Murphy, farm and forest land specialist.

“Things like feed stores or a slaughterhouse are set up to try to help provide some benefit to local agricultural community,” he said. “The state is completely silent on those commercial activities. Those things are up to the county.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,