Curry County is the first coastal county in Oregon to undertake the arduous, state-required process that ultimately leads to the siting of destination resorts.Oregon land use laws require that before any county can process applications for siting a destination resort, the county must have a destination resorts ordinance, and also a destination resorts map showing all eligible properties in the county.
The map does not mean a resort will ultimately be built on all eligible properties, but it is a “first cut,” eliminating all lands that do not meet state requirements for resorts. For example, resorts are not allowed on Class 1 or 2 forestlands, within three miles of a high value crop area, or within 24 air miles of an urban growth boundary of a city of more than 100,000 people. Once approved, a Destination Resorts map cannot be amended for at least thirty months. Among the sites on the final Curry County map are Honeybear Campground near Ophir and the Crook property adjacent to the Crook Point Unit of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
The Curry County destination resorts ordinance began in December 2009 with hearings before the County Planning Commission. The process was completed in June, 2010. The ordinance, modeled on that of Jefferson County, is quite strict in some of its requirements for resort applicants. The ordinance also includes the requirements of the new destination resorts reform law passed by the 2010 interim Legislature. This law requires applicants seeking to be placed on a DR map to provide analysis of big game habitat, wildlife protection and traffic impacts. In addition, it requires an economic impact study and a traffic impact study in the application for any DR proposed within ten miles of a city’s Urban Growth Boundary.
Oregon law allows both large and small destination resorts. A large resort must be at least 160 acres of farm or forest land (40 acres if it is within two miles of the ocean), and have at least 150 units of overnight lodging. A small resort, by contrast, requires at least 20 acres of non-resource land, and must have 25-75 units of overnight lodging.
Curry County’s ordinance requires applicants must complete a Tentative Master Plan. The approval is good for two years, with two extensions allowed of two years each — thus, a total of six years.
The Tentative Plan requires many detailed studies, including an inventory of any Goal 5 resources (wildlife, wetlands, riparian areas, etc.) on the property, and plans for how they will be protected. Thanks to the new law, a resort application must also include a detailed economic Impact study and a traffic impacts analysis under the Transportation Planning Rule if it is within ten miles of a UGB. Approval criteria for a tentative resort plan include protection of natural resources, and adequate steps to protect adjacent farms, parks or wildlife refuges. As one of the most contentious issues with destination resorts is the large rural subdivisions many central Oregon resorts have essentially become, the Curry County ordinance has strict requirements to ensure that any individual housing units are available for rent for a proper number of weeks per year, and that overnight lodging units are built before individual lots can be offered for sale.
Within the maximum time limit of six years, an applicant must submit his Final Master Plan for the resort, which the Planning Commission must also review and approve. The Final Plan must “substantially conform” to the Tentative Plan — meaning that no change can contradict the criteria on which approval of the Tentative Plan was based. The Final Plan approval is also good for two years, with limited extensions.