The Oregon House on Thursday passed a bill that's supposed to clarify how bike trails can be built on land zoned on exclusive farm use. Too bad it doesn't really clarify much.
The House voted 46-1 to send House Bill 3367 over to the Senate. (The rest of the 60 members were excused from voting, which tells you that this was not some high-priority or controversial item.)
Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, sponsored the bill in the wake of the controversy over the now-withdrawn plan to build the Albany-Corvallis trail along the railroad line between the cities. The trail would have used up a good deal of farm land and disrupted some farm operations, and so the county planning commission turned it down.
The county had sought a conditional use permit for the path, but there was a question whether this was necessary. This question is what the Olson bill seeks to answer. It would authorize the building of trails on EFU land under the conditional use permit procedure. In other words, it would require that certain conditions be met.
Now, what exactly could be built under this procedure? The bill says: "A permanent or temporary transportation facility designed primarily for walking, running, bicycling or any other nonmotorized recreational use by the public." Transportation facility? What's that? A trail and path, probably. How about a lane? A bike lane on a highway? An extra-wide bike lane on a county road?
And what about "recreational" as a qualifier? The Albany-Corvallis trail or path is not intended for recreational use. It's supposed to be a transportation alternative. If it's ever built -- along a different alignment -- people might indeed use it to just amble along on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But it will be designed "primarily" for transportation, not for a stroll in the park.
With that in mind, we really won't know whether a conditional use permit will be needed if the Senate follows the House and turns this bill into law.(hh)