FOR GOD’S SAKE FOR THE STATE
The Lutheran Congregation Story.
In 1992, a Lutheran congregation in Wilsonville, Oregon paid $270,000 for 15 acres of land on
which it planned to construct a new church. The land was zoned as exclusive farm use (EFU)
which means that no building can be constructed on such property unless it produces a gross
farm income of more than $80,000 in each of the two years prior to purchase or three of the
last five years. Although the church clearly had no intention of using the land for farming
purposes, an exemption at the time allowed churches, schools and cemeteries to build on
EFU-zoned land without having to meet the farm income requirements.
Then, in 1994, the state changed the law and eliminated the EFU exemption for churches.
Because the state did not include a grandfather clause exempting churches purchasing EFU land
prior to the rule change, the Lutheran congregation was left with 15 acres of unusable land.
The current pastor of the church, Doug Adams, rejects such concerns.
"This is not prime farmland. The farmer who sold it to the church used it to graze his cattle
and did not grow anything." Pastor Adams notes that the land is surrounded by a variety of
residential and commercial development which includes a quarry just down the road. Denied an
exemption, the church was forced to purchase another four-acre plot for $415,000. Pastor Adams
says their plan now is just to wait and hope that a zoning change in five years or so will
allow the church to sell off the unusable 15-acre plot.
Looking back on the experience, Pastor Adams says, "What mystifies me is why churches couldn't
have been grandfathered. I would have thought this would have been an easy legal battle."
Source: Oregonians In Action
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