As with most things, COVID-19 has disrupted the land use permitting process in Oregon, causing questions and sometimes chaos for applicants and local governments who are in the middle of such processes. At this time, most local government offices in Oregon are closed to the public, although some are accepting the public by appointment only. The majority of the work in processing land use applications, engineering plans, and building permit applications is continuing, but remotely as people work from home. Public hearings have been put on hold, postponed or accomplished through alternate means, such as teleconference or simply in writing. One hallmark of land use planning in Oregon is the statutory requirement that local governments process most land use applications within 120 or 150 days depending on whether the property is inside or outside the urban growth boundary. (Some land use applications, such as annexations and comprehensive plan amendments, are not subject to this requirement.) We do not believe that any of the governor’s executive orders have the effect of suspending this statutory processing deadline, although we understand that there is discussion of convening a special legislative session to address some COVID-19 issues, of which this may be one. In the meantime, local governments are asking land use applicants for waivers of the 120/150 day timeline. Whether an applicant grants such a waiver is up to the applicant; however, if the applicant does choose to grant a waiver, the waiver should only be for a certain period of time. It should not be a blanket waiver, i.e., one that simply waives the deadline in its entirety. Additional waivers can be granted in the future if they turn out to be necessary. We also understand that the Land Use Board of Appeals is continuing to process appeals, but is only accepting in-person delivery of pleadings and other documents by appointment, and is holding oral argument by teleconference.
We will continue to keep you updated with land use related information as we receive it.