Comprehensive Plan


Irrigon is located on the Columbia River about 3 miles west of the Morrow-Umatilla County boundary line. Boardman is located about 13 miles west and Umatilla about 6 miles east of Irrigon. The City was founded in 1862 and incorporated in 1957.

Various Technical Reports and Plans, such as the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, the Buildable Lands Inventory, and the Transportation System Plan, provide background information, facts, and considerations that serves as a basis for the City's Comprehensive Plan, Comprehensive Plan map, policies, and objectives.  These Reports and Plans can and often are adopted by the City of Irrigon, serving to support the Comprehensive Plan and associated components of the Development Code.

The original Comprehensive Plan was the culmination of the City Planning Commission and City Council's efforts. Public hearings were held throughout the process and draft documents were reviewed by the Public, Morrow County, and other elected officials, and affected government agencies. The Comprehensive Plan, including the land management map and policies, and an Urban Growth Area Joint Management Agreement were adopted by the City Council on June 26, 1978. Both documents were subsequently adopted by the Morrow County Court on August 16, 1978. Final Plan acknowledgement was given by LCDC and the State of Oregon on February 9, 1979. The original report (1978) was financed, in part, through a Comprehensive Planning Assistance Grant from the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) and with the assistance of East Central Oregon Association of Counties (ECOAC).

In 1998-2000 there was a cooperative effort with Morrow County and the City of Boardman to accomplish a Buildable Lands Inventory. At the conclusion of those efforts an updated Joint Management Agreement was adopted.

The Comprehensive Plan was again updated and adopted, March 22, 2005 by the City of Irrigon with assistance provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

In 2020 an update of the Comprehensive Plan was undertaken to assure that it continues to meet the needs of the citizens of the City of Irrigon. It was determined that the introduction, Goal 7 Natural Hazards, Goal 10 Housing, and Goal 12 Transportation should incorporate recommendation and policy from the adoption and update to the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, county-wide work related to Goal 10 Housing in 2019, and changes to the City of Irrigon Transportation System Plan completed over the past decade. The entire Comprehensive Plan was reviewed and the biggest change was a reorganization of the Comprehensive Plan simplifying the layout of the document with a focus on how the City of Irrigon will implement the Statewide Planning Goals to best meet the needs of the community.

Table of Contents

Introduction, History and Background
What is a Comprehensive plan
Format of the Comprehensive Plan
Responsibilities for Preparation and Revision
History of the Greater Irrigon Area
Economic Background
Existing Land Use, Zoning, and Growth Management

Plan Goals, Findings, and Policies
Goal 1 Citizen Involvement
Goal 2 Land Use Planning
Goal 3 Agricultural Lands
Goal 4 Forest Land
Goal 5 Open Spaces, Scenic and Historic Areas, and Natural Resources
Goal 6 Air, Water, and Land Resources Quality
Goal 7 Areas Subject to Natural Disasters and Hazards
Goal 8 Recreation Needs
Goal 9 Economic Development
Goal 10 Housing
Goal 11 Public Facilities and Services
Goal 12 Transportation
Goal 13 Energy Conservation
Goal 14 Urbanizations

Review and Revision of the Comprehensive Plan

Introduction, History and Background

What is a Comprehensive Plan

A Comprehensive Plan is the public's conclusions about the development and conservation of an area, in this case the area within the city limits of Irrigon, and adopted by the City Council, and completed with public and agency input, with final acknowledgment by the Department of Land Conservation and Development. It is the only all-inclusive plan for a given geographic area.

Comprehensive means all-inclusive in terms of the functional and natural activities in the area, such as:

  • The natural resources of land, air, and water that are to be preserved, conserved, managed, or utilized;
  • The constraints related to development such as physical limitations of the public and private sectors to provide necessary services; or resource limitations such as inadequate stream flows or ground water resources to provide the water needed to support development, etc.;
  • The locations for various types of land and water uses and activities in an area, such as residential, agricultural, commercial, forestry, industrial, etc.;
  • The utilities, services, and facilities needed to support the present and contemplated uses and activities, where they will be provided, and upon what conditions; and
  • Considerations and the special values of the area, such as housing, energy supplies and consumption, improvements of the local economy, recreation needs, scenic areas, and the direction and nature of growth and development, if such is desired.

The term "plan" means the group of decisions made before changes are made in the area. A public plan, like a remodeling plan for a building, shows the present condition as well as any future changes. It shows the direction and nature of changes in land and water uses and what utilities, streets or other public facilities will be provided, etc. When a public improvement will be built or when a change in use is expected it is expressed by an estimated date, or the reaching of a population level or density or, the occurrence of another event such as the installation of a water line or the construction of a school.

The purpose of public planning is to make the public decisions in advance of construction of a facility, or the use of resources, so any differences are resolved prior to starting a project. Unnecessary project delays are avoided when the public and affected agencies have resolved any conflicts well before construction work begins.

The public's plan is a document upon which public agencies, private firms, and individuals must be able to rely so their decisions and investments can be made with confidence. People buying homes can do so, assured that the neighborhood they have selected will not change adversely. Farmers can make capital investments, certain that the adjacent areas will not be developed and preclude them from continuing their farming practices, causing them to be unable to pay for and use needed improvements. Businesses can invest in new sites, confident that they can be used for their intended purpose, and that the needed services will be provided. Public investments in water, sewer systems, schools, etc. can be made in an orderly manner, in keeping with the ability to pay for them.

The plan is the basis for other public implementation actions, such as zoning and subdivision decisions. These must be made in the total context of the overall need reflected in the plan.

When adopted, the plan expresses the coordination decisions of the public (individuals, groups, and organizations), incorporated with those of public agencies. In addition to setting forth the public's choices about how conservation and development will occur in their geographic area; the plan also incorporates the plans of all other governmental jurisdictions in that area. Fitting them together harmoniously, it interrelates needs, constraints, and services with natural resources. When completed, the comprehensive plan relates all decisions directly to the air, water, and land resources of the local area in a coordinated manner.

The plan is a statement of the choices made by the public, enacted by their City Council or County Commissioners. These are choices that are made consciously and are not merely self-fulfilling prophecies of trends and projections. These choices can be made contrary to trends if the changes necessary to affect the trends are made too. These trends must be considered, but only as factors to be considered. The choices also reflect a consideration of the area's problems and needs, as well as social, economic, and environmental values. Practical and possible alternative solutions, providing the range of options available, must be considered in making the choices. This assures that the best possible solutions will be developed for the area.

Format of the Comprehensive Plan

The adopted Comprehensive Plan contains the decisions about the uses of resources, and the provisions of services and facilities. The plan shows the decisions in the form of policy statements. These are equivalent to a broad blueprint for the area: a blueprint that is interpreted when it is applied to specific situations through zoning and other implementation measures. The general plan is adhered to, but some designations, like "residential-single family", may be further refined into several single-family residential classifications, depending on the needs of the area. The Comprehensive Plan also consists of the background infor­mation, facts, and considerations that served as the basis for the conclu­sions. The background infor­mation describes the nature of the economic base; its development and conservation implications. It also sets out the process that was followed to arrive at the choices made in the plan.

There are other adopted Plans, such as the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan and the Transportation System Plan, that may be part of the Comprehensive Plan by reference, or they may be adopted as stand-alone plans that inform portions of the Comprehensive Plan. The City may also adopt as reference documents items such as a Buildable Lands Inventory or a population analysis to inform changes to the Comprehensive Plan.

Responsibilities for Preparation and Revision

The fitting together smoothly of all parts of the plan is one of the most important features of a comprehensive plan. Coordination occurs primarily during the preparation of the plan by involving all affected people and agencies throughout the development of the plan. These plan and develop­ment coordination responsibilities should include coordination with the county; special districts; local, state and federal agencies; the citizens and landowners in the city; and other identified interested parties.

To achieve the objective of public understanding and support of the plan, as well as assuring that the plan reflects the desires and needs of the people it is designed to serve, it is essential that the public be involved throughout the entire process of the making of the plan.

Opportunities for input must also include those not living in the area, so they can participate in discussions concerning issues of more than local interest, such as areawide, regional, state, and national concerns.

The Comprehensive Plan is not cast in concrete. It is a public plan by a changing society in a developing and renewing, dynamic situation. The plan must be reviewed periodically to assure that it reflects the desires and needs of the people it is designed to serve; that the plan is achieving the desired stated objective. However, it must not be changed dramatically or capriciously at each review if individuals, organizations, and public agencies are to be able to rely on it. If the review takes place with reasonable frequency, then most adjustments will be small and easily accommodated. It is essential that those people and agencies, as well as the general public who were involved with the preparation of the plan, be given the opportunity to be included in any review so their understanding and support of the plan will continue.

History of the Greater Irrigon Area

Before white settlement, native Cayuse and Umatilla Indians practiced a subsistence economy based on hunting, fishing and root and berry gathering. The Umatilla’s established winter villages along the Columbia River from Alderdale, Washington to the mouth of the Umatilla River, approximately 5 miles east of where Irrigon is now located. During the summer months, the Indians traveled to the Blue Mountains and along the John Day River. Deer, elk and bear hides, Blue Mountain pine and fir bark and Columbia Basin sage provided construction materials. Around 1700, the arrival of wild horses, descended from runaway Southwestern domestic stock, greatly increased Indian mobility, extending their hunting range into the buffalo country beyond the Rockies.

The first phase of white settlement by-passed Morrow County as had the early nineteen century trappers and traders. It was not until shortly before the discovery of gold in the John Day country in 1862 that white stockmen were attracted to the grass of southern Morrow County. Permanent settlements were established in the canyons of Willow and Butter Creek before 1870. After their last uprising in 1878, the local Indians were confined to reservations in 1885, outside what would become the boundaries of Morrow County. Their chief economic legacy was the Cayuse pony, which they had bred for hardiness, endurance, and intelligence.

When white settlement did begin in Morrow County around 1870, the barren sandy sage plain of the Columbia Basin did not attract permanent homesteaders. The northern end of the county between about eight miles north of the Willamette Baseline and the Columbia River was used mainly for seasonal grazing of livestock. The Union Pacific Railroad was completed through this region in 1883 without stimulating permanent settlement and increased economic activity.

In the early twentieth century, it was proposed that a canal be built to carry water from the Umatilla River west to land near the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company’s Stokes siding. The town built here was known as Stokes until about 1905 when the first four letters of irrigation were joined with the last three of Oregon to form the name of Irrigon. The Oregon Land and Water Company extensively advertised land with a water right for $100 per acre and settlers began coming in 1903. At that time, only a very small old Oregon Land and Water Company ditch with water rights covering 100 acres existed. One of the first settlers on this land was George M. Rand who planted 10 acres to fruit.

As more settlers came, the area prospered, and a dam was built on the Umatilla River. Settlers could work constructing the canal for $2.50 for a ten-hour day. In 1904 and 1905 there was a company blacksmith shop, general merchandise store with a dance hall above, a barber shop, hardware store, hotel, drugstore, livery stable, furniture store, feed store, school, railroad depot and telegraph service and weekly newspaper, the “Irrigon Irrigator”. A ferry was established to cross the Columbia from the Irrigon docks, and a stern wheeler provided freight and passenger service from Portland to Lewiston, Idaho. In 1907, Page’s Pool Hall and Confectionery was built. Then financial panic gripped the area as the Oregon Land and Water Company was declared bankrupt. Settlers either sold for what they could get or just left the area until about 50 remained in the community.

In 1915, renewed interest in the area, particularly from Senator Lande, provided impetus for constructions of the high ditch, as it was known. The West Extension District was formed in 1916 and added to the original district so that its ditch reached west and south of Irrigon to where Boardman was to be established. These canals allowed for utilization of return flows within the Cold Springs Reservoir system. Farmers were able to grow a variety of crops in the arid county such as melons, fruit trees (though they were generally ill suited to the soil and climate) and were able to sustain a sizeable dairy industry. The Hermiston District was originally planned for 20,000 acres and the West Extension for 16,300 acres but neither reached these goals.

The attempted reclamation project was an abject failure for several reasons and by 1948 the district owed the government over 1 million dollars. Two of the major faults of the project were lack of a soil survey showing what crops were best to grow and a marketing study to show how best to market produce and where. There were no improved roads until after 1920 and all produce was shipped by rail. With the advent of good roads, however, Morrow County would never again sustain the same variety of businesses as it had in the self-sufficient years, 1870-1920, when the county grew much more of what it needed, and had thriving poultry and dairy industries and flour mills.

In 1920, a new school was built that was still in use as a high school in 1959. A North Morrow County Fair was held for several years starting about 1921, where residents showed local products. World War I provided good markets for Morrow County agricultural products, but the twenties failed to live up to expectations. Production exceeded sales for most agricultural commodities. Farms were consolidated as smaller operations were sold to larger ones.

Land prices increased. The 1924-25 crops were frozen out, but production recovered by 1927, In general, compared with the big wartime expansion, the twenties were drab, but people had gotten into the habit of living on credit.

This tendency complicated the shortage of money during the Great Depression beginning in 1929. Another problem was the universally bad crops of the thirties. The worst year for Morrow County was 1934, when the wheat crop was both low in quantity and poor in quality, selling for 181Zt per bushel, compared with the $2 a bushel price of twenty years before. Banks closed during the Depression decade, and Morrow County gained some notoriety as the place where the local Lions Club issued homemade scrip to spend in the county’s stores. The idea caught on in other Oregon communities.

But the people of the North End were determined and continued trying many crops throughout the depression. None of the crops were successful, partly due to the difficulties in marketing such diverse products. Irrigon and Boardman, like other small towns, expended much energy quarreling over prestige and schools through these and later years.

In the 1940 New Deal, agricultural policies and the creation of state soil and water conservation districts helped to alleviate the worsening condition of Morrow County’s land resources as the high winds and low rainfall of the mid-thirties persisted. As the wheat farmers in the southern part of the county contended with these problems, Irrigon farmers were dealing with increasing alkali problems as continued irrigation caused underlying alkali to rise to the surface where it prohibited growth in the otherwise fertile sand. Though modern farmers know how to leach alkali into low places or the river, it was then, as it is now, an expensive, slow process.

In these years, the Umatilla Electric Cooperative Association, a REA affiliate began merchandizing Bonneville Power Administration electricity to rural and city customers. Paved highways and telephones were also acquired. In 1952, a new grade school was constructed and named for A.C. Houghton, an engineer who was responsible for much of the progress in the West End-North Morrow irrigation projects. Irrigon was incorporated in 1957 and in 1959; Morrow County schools were consolidated to form a countywide school district. McNary Dam was built in the 1950’s upstream from Irrigon about 8 miles. Some construction workers lived in Irrigon and caused the population to increase for a few years.

In the sixties, some of the activity accompanying construction of the John Day Dam and I-80 affected Irrigon, though neither substantially altered the prosperity or patterns of economic activity of Morrow County. The Corps of Engineers brought land along the Columbia, some of which they developed as a park and boat launch. Other land was leased to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife for use as a bird refuge. The area provides excellent habitat for ducks, geese, and pheasants. Irrigon’s population was 232 in 1960 and 261 in 1970.

By 1969, significant additions to the agricultural patterns of seventy or eighty years had begun. On the D.O. Nelson property north of Lexington, five center-pivot irrigation circles of 130 acres each were producing potatoes that year. Though irrigation was not new to Morrow County, the center-pivot systems were a big break through as they were especially well adapted to the level, low elevation, sandy soils of the Columbia Basin in the North End of the county. With this technology, the previously unproductive sage lands could produce specialty or high value per acre crops such as potatoes and alfalfa. This had potential spin-off value for processing. By 1975, the Port of Morrow at Boardman was profiting from the location there of potato plants and farm supply companies to take advantage of expanded irrigation.

Also by 1975, some problems to further expansion of irrigated agriculture had also presented themselves. One was the critical groundwater problem. Drawdown from the proliferation of wells in the Columbia Basin area had threatened irrigators with shutoffs of their water supply. The water being pumped was 20,000 to 40,000 years old and the aquifer was not recharging. The irrigators looked to the Columbia for replacement water.

Another obstacle was the presence in the middle of the North End irrigation zone of the U.S. Navy Bombing Range, land bought in 1940 by the government from Hynd Brothers at $1.42 per acre. The western part of the tract had been purchased by the state with veteran’s funds and leased to Boeing Company in hopes of Oregon’s cashing in on aero-space industry expansion in the early sixties. Boeing recognized the true potential of the land and started growing potatoes and other crops on it. The eastern portion was retained by the Navy. As of 1978, the land was still being used for target practice by planes from Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, despite strenuous efforts by the local leaders to get the Range moved to Washington State. The fate of these 48,000 acres will be settled in Washington, D. C. and not in Morrow County.

Boeing was not the only large company active in northern Morrow County. The amount of capital required to finance center-pivot irrigation on a big scale makes it difficult for some smaller family farmers to prac­tice this form of agriculture. Among North End corporate farms are Sim-Tag, a consortium between long-time potato irrigators from Idaho and Washington; Eastern Oregon Farms, Sabre Farms, and Oregon Potato, Inc., owned by C. Brewer and Company of Hawaii. The increased irrigation and truck cropping made it possible for such food processing firms to locate in the county as Morrow Produce and Gourmet Foods.

Two other major areas of expansion in northern Morrow County have been in transportation and energy. With the construction of the John Day Dam below Arlington on the Columbia in the sixties, Boardman was forced to relocate on higher land to avoid inundation of slack water. Water from the higher river made a smaller impression on Irrigon. Interstate 80 passes through the city limits of the new Boardman, providing the opportunity for tourist commercial development, which the city has grasped. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s several motels, restaurants, and gas stations have added to the processing expansion of the Port of Morrow to keep Boardman busy.

In the seventies, a consortium of power companies led by PGE developed a plan to construct a complex of coal and nuclear power plants in the Boardman area. In 1975, work began on the first of these, a thermal plant using Montana coal to be shipped by rail to the site called Carty (after an 1890 Irish sheep man), nine miles south of Boardman and a few miles east of the Bombing Range. The reservoir for the plant will provide additional irrigation water by damming the runoff from the usually dry reaches of upper Six Mile Canyon.

In March 1975, Alumax Pacific Corporation obtained an option on property at the Port of Umatilla on which to build a $350 million aluminum reduction plant. Construction has been held up by court actions and by concerns over adequate power availability. If the plant is constructed, it would have substantial impact on Irrigon. It is estimated that peak construction employment would be about 1800 with operational employment of 800 upon completion. According to the Alumax Environmental Impact Statement, Irrigon is expected to experience an increase in population of about 50 persons, or 7 percent, in the year construction begins. However, actual population increase would also be dependent on availability of adequate housing and adequacy of public facilities such as city water and sewer facilities and public schools. Whether Alumax or any of the additional projected Morrow County energy plants, or the nuclear plants planned nearby in Gilliam County are constructed remains to be seen. Delays occasioned by environmental impact statement requirements, energy availability, court cases and financial considerations make the future of such development in Morrow County uncertain.

Equally uncertain is what the effect of these developments would be on Irrigon. The city has experienced boom and bust cycles before, but a too rapid expansion of the North End economy may strain the traditional structure of county services beyond the resident citizen’s ability to pay. Irrigon residents should make sure the lag between development of any new facilities and the payment of revenues they produce is not too long.

In the 1990s the Morrow County School District identified a need for additional schools throughout the County with an additional elementary school specific to Irrigon. In 2000 the urban growth boundary was expanded to allow for the annexation of land for the Irrigon Elementary School which opened in 2003. This was followed by the community of Irrigon seeking to regain their high school which was achieved in 2008 when the Irrigon Junior Senior High School became a reality.

In 1993 residents living in the western portion of the City of Irrigon urban growth boundary requested that they be removed, resulting in several acres of homes having city services no longer within the urban growth boundary. In this same time frame, there was a water quality concern identified in the same area resulting in requests from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for the City to provide wastewater services. These two actions have left a significant portion of residentially developed land west of the City’s urban growth boundary receiving city services without paying City taxes.

The Port of Morrow has continued to grow with the addition of more food processing plants and the addition of data centers. New rail loops, spurs and sidings have been added starting in 2005 with more planned growing an area now referred to as the East Beach Industrial Park to the west of Irrigon with a connection to Highway 730. Food processing, warehousing, ethanol production and data centers are filling the East Beach Industrial Park creating additional traffic on Highway 730.

In the late 1990s the City of Boardman and Morrow County formed the Columbia River Enterprise Zone (I) with the Port of Morrow joining the effort in 2009 when the Columbia River Enterprise Zone (II) was created. Since 2015 the Columbia River Enterprise Zone Board has distributed the discretionary funds received from businesses that have taken advantage of the tax abatement program, providing significant opportunity to the City of Irrigon. Investment has been made in the community through the creation of community enhancement programs. These funds should be available for the foreseeable future, concluding in about 2035 (unless the program is extended).

Irrigon’s Water Master Plan was approved in 2006 followed by an increase in storage capacity. Then in 2009 with the relocation of the City wells along the Columbia River to address increased nitrate levels.

In the late 1980s the City initiated the first of many projects improving wastewater management throughout the City of Irrigon. Between 1988 and 1990 the STEP sewer system was installed, moving all users off onsite septic systems. In 2003 further wastewater conversions were initiated resulting in the construction of the wastewater treatment plant, replacing the ‘stinky ponds’ located at the east end of Irrigon north of Highway 730. Work continues in late 2020 as more of the City is moving from the STEP sewer system to the Biolac Facility, the only one installed in Oregon, that treats for nitrate removal.

Irrigon’s City Hall has had several homes including the aging historic schoolhouse. In 2007 City staff moved into the current City Hall sited within the park blocks, continuing the initiative to develop this strip into parks and government offerings. The Irrigon Branch of the Oregon Trail Library was housed for years in a bus. But in 2012 the City Hall building was expanded adding the Library and a community room available for meetings and other gatherings, opening to the public in 2013. Within the park blocks there is a children’s park, skate park, covered community venue, a walking trail, and open green space. The Post Office anchors the west end with the east end planned for expansion beyond A.C. Houghton Elementary School.

Both the Morrow County Health District and Morrow County government have substantial investments in Irrigon. The Irrigon Clinic saw the completion of a major expansion in 2018. Morrow County will complete in 2021 a complete renovation of its site with a new building designed to house multiple county services including Planning, Justice Court, the Sheriff’s Department, Veteran’s Services, Parole and Probation, and the County Clerk.

Economic Background

Irrigon's economy is based on its proximity to surrounding farms, processing plants and other farm equipment and supply businesses both in Morrow County and in western Umatilla County. Energy generation facilities including the Carty Coal fired electrical-generation plant, construction, and other manufacturing businesses in the area are significant. The largest employers in the city are local government and the Morrow County School District. Further expansion in agribusiness, energy generation and other industries in northern Morrow County and western Umatilla County has and is expected to have substantial impact on the economy of Irrigon.

Water has and will continue to be both a driver and limiting factor to development. North Morrow County and west Umatilla County are home to four Critical Ground Water Areas based on water quantity and the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area based on water quality. There has been activity on both fronts with progress albeit at times slow. Irrigation projects continue working to secure Columbia River water to replace basalt water reserves. And a Community Advisory Committee continues work on improving the quality of groundwater throughout the basin. Both designations have impacted the City of Irrigon over the past couple of decades as new wells have been installed to increase water supply and the wastewater treatment plant has been constructed and put online. Those challenges will continue as the region works to improve both water quantity and quality.

The city has designated 40 acres of land for light industrial use in its comprehensive plan. The property lies south of Highway 730 and consequently has good highway access to Interstate 84 and north to the Tri-City area. No plans for development of this land exist.

Other factors affecting growth in Irrigon include the creation of a downtown core, opportunities for new  commercial development, clear policies on residential development including how services will be extended for delivery, and an understanding of how annexation can be used to achieve these and other goals.

Comprehensive plan objectives and the resulting urban growth boundary were originally drafted to address the aspirations, problems and needs of the city. Population projections, soil capabilities, feasibility of extending city services, availability of land inside and outside city limits, and other natural resource and socio-economic information were evaluated. As part of the 2020 update these aspects were updated based on current factors and law. Since 1980 the urban growth boundary has changed. An area to the west of the city limits and north of Highway 730 has been removed and the area where the Irrigon Elementary School is located has been added. Future growth may require the City to consider annexation with a clear analysis of how and where city services can be efficiently delivered.

Irrigon and Morrow County have developed an Urban Growth Area Joint Management Agreement, which will guide development within the urban growth area. Annexation procedures, plan and ordinance implementation, provision of city services, road management, and the process for plan review and revision are addressed.  An update to this Joint Management Agreement was completed in 1998 and again in 2000. The Agreement is again due to be updated.

When the original Comprehensive Plan was adopted the City also adopted various Ordinances that now comprise the Development Code, a provision within the City’s Municipal Code. It addresses how land can be developed, what action must be taken to partition or subdivide land, and various development standards.

The comprehensive plan provides the legal framework for land use decisions within Irrigon and within the urban growth boundary. Though it cannot be changed capriciously, the plan must remain a dynamic document. As the city's needs change or as new data becomes available, the comprehensive plan must be amended according to the procedure addressed in this Comprehensive Plan and according to Oregon Law.


When Oregon created the Statewide Planning Program it was determined that Counties would be responsible for coordinating certain aspects of the program including Population Forecasting. During the development of both the Morrow County and City of Irrigon Comprehensive Plans in the 1970s there was considerable work to quantify the current population and provide projections for the next 20 years. Morrow County has experienced growth in population over the past 40 years but maintaining the population forecast and updating the various Comprehensive Plans was not a priority.

The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), along with the Association of Oregon Counties and League of Oregon Cities recognized this as a statewide concern as much of the required infrastructure planning for cities is based on accurate and current population projections. In 2015 a joint effort was launched between the DLCD and the Portland State University Population Research Center (PRC) to accomplish regular population estimates. Morrow County saw the first of these new population estimates in 2016 and the second in 2019. Going forward these estimates should be updated every three years providing the City of Irrigon with accurate and timely populations estimates for infrastructure and land use planning purposes. Documentation of this activity can be found on the Portland State University PRC website.


The City of Irrigon lies at approximately 280 feet above sea level with a climate that is relatively dry because the Cascade Mountains serve as an effective moisture barrier causing storms to dump much of their moisture west of the peaks leaving areas to the east, including Morrow County and the City of Irrigon, in a "rain shadow." This region has a definite winter rainfall climate. The months of November through February generally receive the most precipitation due to winter storms, which bring rain to lower elevations and snow to higher areas characteristic to the southern portion of the County. The average annual rainfall for Irrigon is about 9 inches with another 2 inches of snowfall. Occasional summer thunderstorms bring localized, occasionally heavy rain. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 28°F to 93°F.

The Oregon State Legislature established the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) in 2007 under House Bill 3543. The OCCRI periodically assesses the state of knowledge of climate science as it pertains to Oregon, fulfilling its legislative mandate. The Fourth Oregon Climate Assessment Report was delivered on January 31, 2019. A takeaway from this fourth report is that Oregon continues to warm because of the heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere from global activity. The report presents information about climate, agriculture, fire risk, and snow + water supply.


Irrigon lies within the Columbia River Plateau, a vast geological region covering parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It is noted for large amounts of Miocene and early Pliocene flood basalts. The Columbia River Plateau was divided by Fenneman in 1931 into two subprovinces - the topographically lower Walla Walla Plateau, which includes the Irrigon area, and the elevated Blue Mountain subprovince. The Walla Walla Plateau is characterized by rolling upland surfaces with young, incised valleys.

More specific dissection of the Walla Walla Plateau to the Irrigon area is related to the Columbia River and The Dalles-Umatilla syncline. This great east west down warp, whose trough extends 160 miles from the Cascade Range to the Blue Mountains, is a major transportation route to the interior of the Pacific Northwest. A principal sag in The Dalles-Umatilla syncline is centered at Umatilla, Oregon, about six miles from Irrigon. The top of the basalt stands only about 200 feet above sea level at this sag.

Underlying the Walla Walla Plateau are hundreds to several thousand feet of basalt flows of the Columbia River Group. These flows are exposed in nearly all stream drainages and in many highway cuts. The basalt flows erupted from fissures apparently lying to the east in Wallowa and Union Counties and blanketed almost the entire Pendleton quadrangle.

Pliocene and younger sedimentary deposits of fluvial, lacustrine, eolian, and glacial origin veneer intervening upland surfaces. In the Irrigon area, fluvioglacial deposits (gravel, sand, and silt) left during glacial-melt water transport by the Columbia River (Newcomb, 1969) are the primary type of sedimentary deposits present. They are generally less than 100 feet thick and in some places are only a few feet thick. Deposits of these sediments are found in structural and physiographic depressions in the area around Irrigon.

The Walla Walla Plateau contains small amounts of metallic minerals or carbonaceous fuels and there are no identified sources near Irrigon. The Columbia River basalt affords an easily available source of good quality road metal, riprap, rock fill, and common stone. There are several sand and gravel companies located around Umatilla and Hermiston, although none are located right at Irrigon. There are no other mineral resources of significance that have been identified at Irrigon.


Irrigon lies along the Columbia River in the north central portion of a broad, gently rolling, slightly dissected, lowland plain. The Columbia River lies in the axial trough of the 160-mile-long, Dalles-Umatilla syncline described by Newcomb (1967). Structural dips trend to the northwest within the basalts of the report area and average approximately 30 feet to the mile.


Soils conditions are one of the most important features related to rural land use planning. Soils concerns are basically twofold: (1) land use capability which includes productivity potential and (2) limitations and suitability related to development. Often these limitations can be overcome, although in many instances substantial expenditures will be required. Some soils require treatment such as artificial drainage, runoff control to reduce erosion, extended sewage absorption fields, extra excavation, or some modification of certain features through manipulation of the soil. Other soil limitations could be steep slopes, bedrock near the surface, flooding hazard, high shrink-swell potential, a seasonal high-water table, or low bearing strength. These limitations can impact urban and residential development requiring major soil reclamation, special design, or intensive maintenance.

Existing Land Use, Zoning and Growth Management

When the City of Irrigon adopted the first Comprehensive Plan in 1978 also adopted was a Development Code that implemented the Comprehensive Plan as a set of development standards and requirements. This Development Code further codified the Goals and Policies set forth in the Comprehensive Plan, outlining the various zoning classifications and setting forth the necessary procedures to be implemented.

Most of the land in Irrigon is zoned for residential use. With Highway 730 running through the City of Irrigon a clear downtown core is missing, something that was addressed in the early 2000s resulting in a Downtown Plan and changes to the Transportation System Plan. There are areas of commercially zoned land both north and south of Highway 730 allowing for a variety of commercial developments and supporting various government and public service agencies. Through Comprehensive Plan policies and Development Code requirements future development of a downtown core can be accomplished.

 The City of Irrigon has a single 40-acre parcel zoned for industrial use with long-term ownership that has kept the land in agricultural production. About 160 acres along the Columbia River is owned by the Army Corp of Engineers allowing for the development of the Irrigon Marina Park and the installation of the Columbia River Heritage Trail through the community. Some of this land is managed by the Army Corp of Engineers but some is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This public ownership and management create a recreation opportunity for the City of Irrigon.

Zoning designations created with the development of the Comprehensive Plan and Development Code are mapped on the current Zoning Map and include residential, commercial, industrial, and public use areas. The railroad right-of-way that ran along Highway 730 on the north side has been acquired by the City of Irrigon and over time is being converted to public use that includes the Post Office, City Hall, various parks and includes a walking trail.

 The City of Irrigon is responsible for the land within the City Limits. Another boundary, the urban growth boundary, creates the urban growth area which is managed jointly by the City of Irrigon and Morrow County through a Joint Management Agreement. The land within the urban growth area has applied to it the Morrow County use zone of Suburban Residential which allows for limited agricultural uses and residential development. When the City of Irrigon accomplishes an annexation of land within the urban growth area the City of Irrigon needs to also apply the necessary use zone to the property to allow for the uses intended by the City of Irrigon and the land owner(s) requesting the annexation.

 The City of Irrigon can also increase the urban growth boundary adding land to the urban growth area. This requires a review and approval by both the City of Irrigon Planning Commission and City Council as well as the Morrow County Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners. Since the original adoption of the Comprehensive Plan Oregon Revised Statute and Oregon Administrative Rules have changes considerably outlining the necessary processes required of local government to accomplish that necessary planning action. There has been a recognition that the urban growth boundary expansion process can be difficult, so measures have been put in place to simplify the process, making it easier for small and rural communities to grow.

Public services such as water and wastewater are not generally allowed under Oregon law to be delivered outside of an urban growth boundary. The City of Irrigon also limits the delivery of those same public services outside of the city limits. As land is identified to either be annexed or added to the urban growth area the ability to provide those public services needs to be considered.

Plan Goals, Findings and Policies

The following statement of Goals, Findings and Policies provide a general long-range basis for decision-making relative to the future growth and development of the City. The goals are in direct response to applicable Oregon Statewide Planning Goals. The Findings are statements of fact regarding how the City has and will continue to apply the Goals. The Policy statements set forth a guide to courses of action that are intended to carry out the Goals of the plan and present a clear picture of the City's position on matters pertaining to physical improvements and development.

Goal 1: Citizen Involvement - To develop a citizen involvement program that insures the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the Planning process.

Irrigon's Planning Commission has acted as the City's Committee for Citizen Involve­ment since May 1976, when the city began working toward obtaining planning assistance. The Planning Commission has involved a cross section of city residents in all phases of the planning process. Commission meetings are held monthly as needed and are open to the public. The Planning Commission serves as the decision maker for many quasi-judicial decision and acts as an advisory body to the Irrigon City Council on legislative land use decisions.

Since 1978 the City of Irrigon has made changes to the Comprehensive Plan, but not until 2020 was a complete overhaul of the document considered. Those intervening changes included the adoption of a Transportation System Plan which included changes to Goal 12, adoption of a Bike and Pedestrian Plan, a Downtown Plan, two Buildable Lands Inventories (1998 and 2019) leading to changes in Goal 10 Housing, and adoption (a countywide process) of a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan that will inform this update to Goal 7 Natural Hazards. All these processes included public hearings and, in some instances, public workshops.

Morrow County has one weekly newspaper, the Heppner Gazette Times, published in Heppner. Another regional weekly is the Hermiston Herald which shifted to a free weekly in 2020. The East Oregonian for years served the area as a daily newspaper but in recent years has cutback its publication schedule and in 2020 is published on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with a daily digital presence. Also available in the region is the Tri-City Herald, the Oregonian, and other publications providing news and entertainment.

While no television stations are located in Umatilla or Morrow Counties there are stations serving the area out of the Tri-Cities and the Portland area. Changes in how television is delivered makes it difficult to identify a common medium that is delivered into every home. Local radio stations located in Hermiston and Pendleton serves the area. They are KTIX, KUMA, and KRBM-FM in Pendleton and KOHO and KQFM in Hermiston. Stations in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla can also be received. With the advent of the internet and satellite delivery radio stations from around the world are now available.

Historically phone service was provided by Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company and telegraph service was provided by Western Union. In the digital and cellular age phone service is delivered differently and without wires. While many homes still have ‘land lines’ they are becoming less frequent. Current land line service in Irrigon is provided by CenturyLink.

The City Finds that:

  • The Irrigon Planning Commission shall serve as the Committee for Citizen Involvement in Irrigon.
  • Planning Commission meetings are open to the public.
  • Public hearing notices are published at least twenty days before any public hearing in the East Oregonian
  • Public hearings are held by the City Council and Planning Commission to discuss the goals, findings and polices, and also to revise and update this Comprehensive Plan as needed.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To conduct periodic community surveys to ascertain public opinion and collect information; survey results should be distributed.
  • To encourage people to attend and participate in planning commission and city council meetings and hearings.
  • To establish advisory committees as necessary to study community problems and make recommendations for their solution.
  • To distribute the draft Comprehensive Plan revisions for public review and comment.
  • To make technical guidance and other reports available for public inspection.
  • To place the adopted comprehensive plan on the City’s website to make it available to the public for use as a reference in making future land use decisions.

Goal 2: Land Use Planning - To establish a land use planning process and policy framework as a basis for all decisions and actions related to the use of land and to assure an adequate factual base for such decisions and actions.

The City Finds that:

  • The comprehensive plan map, goals, objectives, and technical report provide the necessary data for developing a policy framework for decisions relating to land use in Irrigon.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To prepare data inventories on natural' resources, man-made structures and utilities, population and economic characteristics, and the roles and responsibilities of affected governmental units.
  • To identify lands suitable for development and areas where development should be restricted.
  • To develop economic and population projections.
  • To determine the land requirements for projected economic development and population growth.
  • To determine the public facilities and services required to accommodate existing unmet public needs and expected economic and population growth.
  • To prepare a comprehensive plan and establish an urban growth boundary based on the above information, citizen input, coordination with affected governmental units, and the goals and objectives adopted herein.
  • To establish policies for the implementation of the comprehensive plan.
  • To revise the zoning and subdivision ordinances and develop a critical improvement program based on the comprehensive plan.
  • To establish a policy for revising or amending the comprehensive plan.

 Goal 3: Agricultural Lands - To preserve and maintain agricultural lands.

The City Finds that:

  • Land used for Agricultural purposes within the Urban Growth Boundary can continue to be farmed until an annexation or a zone change is requested. The City of Irrigon acknowledges that Morrow County applies a Suburban Residential use zone that allows limited farming and residential use. At the time of annexation, the City will adopt a zoning designation for the subject property in compliance with the comprehensive plan.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To identify agricultural lands which should be preserved and protected from urban development.
  • To encourage residential, commercial, and industrial development within the urban growth boundary.
  • To encourage the Morrow County Planning Department and County Board of Commissioners to restrict residential, commercial, and industrial development outside the urban growth boundary.

 Goal 4: Forest Land - To conserve forest lands for forest uses.

The City Finds that:

  • There is no forestland within Irrigon or in the area surrounding the City.

 Goal 5: Open Spaces, Scenic and Historic Areas, and Natural Resources - To conserve open space and protect natural and scenic resources.

Unique Scientific and Cultural Resources

Approximately 70% of Oregon has been surveyed by historians to identify sites and buildings of importance in Oregon's history. Only about 3% of the state has been surveyed for archeological sites of significance. The results of these surveys indicate that there are about 2500 historic sites worthy of inclusion in the Statewide Inventory and possibly as many as 120,000 archeological sites. A high density of archeological sites can be found in northern Morrow County along the Columbia River.

Morrow County has several historic sites with portions and spurs of the Oregon Trail known to be within the City of Irrigon. The historic high school has been identified as historic and is eligible to be listed; it now serves as a local arts center. A museum has been established within the City of Irrigon celebrating farming techniques.

During the initial development of the Comprehensive Plan it was identified that some buildings may be of historical importance and should be preserved. Those mentioned include the old schoolhouse, the Catholic Church, Log Cabin by Byrd's, the old Caldwell House, and the park maintenance living quarters. Future action could be taken to further refine this list working to identifying and listing these and other properties and sites.

There is a Morrow County Historical Society that works with the museum at Heppner and could be a resource when additional work is done under Goal 5.

Fish and Wildlife

Abundant waterfowl are found in the Irrigon area.

Located just east of the Irrigon City Limits and running approximately 5 miles to the Umatilla city limits (near the Umatilla River) is the Irrigon Wildlife Area. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has set aside this area for wildlife habitat, hiking, fishing, and hunting. Many waterfowl as well as turtles, deer, predatory birds, and other wildlife can be seen here.

The Irrigon Hatchery began operation in 1984 as part of the Lower Snake River Compensation Program (LSRCP)—a program to mitigate for spring Chinook and summer steelhead losses caused by the four federal dams constructed on the lower Snake River. This facility serves as an egg incubation and rearing facility for summer steelhead destined for the Grande Ronde and Imnaha river systems and egg incubation for 575,000 Umatilla Coho eggs for transfer to Cascade Hatchery. Irrigon Hatchery also rears 1.4 million fall Chinook for the Grande Ronde and Snake Rivers and is used as a rearing site for legal-sized and trophy rainbow trout destined for northeast Oregon waters.

The Umatilla Wildlife Refuge is located west of Irrigon and is federally managed. It also provides valuable waterfowl habitat. Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is a network of lands bordering the Oregon and Washington shorelines of the Columbia River. Comprised of five units—three in Washington and two in Oregon—the refuge's 23,555 acres offer a broad collection of habitats, and thus species. Natural and managed wetlands, mixed with native shrub-steppe, provide homes for an abundance of Columbia Basin species. The wildlife, in turn, attracts visitors, hunters, anglers and birdwatchers. The refuge is well-known for its waterfowl hunting opportunities, and those same waterfowl, along with scores of species of water birds, passerines and mule deer, draw visitors from around the Northwest and beyond.

The City Finds that:

  • There are no identified scientific, archeological, or historic areas within Irrigon. There are no buildings that have been included in the Statewide Inventory of Historic Sites and Buildings. The old Schoolhouse has been identified as eligible but has not been included in the listing.
  • A high density of archaeological sites in the Irrigon area is recognized.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To identify open spaces, scenic and historical areas, and natural resources, which should be preserved from urban development.
  • To preserve open space through public acquisition of suitable land and by encouraging provisions for open space in private developments.
  • To examine any publicly owned lands including street rights-of-way for their potential open space use before their disposition.
  • To encourage multiple use of open space land provided that the uses are compatible.
  • To protect archaeological and historical sites, structures, and artifacts.
  • To conserve the area's natural resources.
  • To emphasize the historical assets in Irrigon, such as the convergence of the Lewis and Clark Trail with the Oregon Trail and the great Columbia River and its beneficial uses.

Goal 6: Air, Water, and Land Resources Quality To maintain and improve the quality of the air, water and land resources of the state.

Since the original Comprehensive Plan was adopted significantly more is known about the air, water, and land quality in and around the City of Irrigon. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is charged with maintaining Oregon’s air, water, and land quality and significant information about each can be found on the Agency’s website.

Air quality is good in the Irrigon area. Most air pollution comes from everyday activities such as driving, accomplishing various activities around your home, and other routine tasks. About 90% of air pollution is generated from these everyday activities. Less than 10% is created from industry. Cars and trucks are the number one source of air pollution in Oregon. Fugitive dust is a common concern in the Columbia Basin created during the dry season when the wind blows on a regular basis.

Irrigon is located within the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area. The Lower Umatilla Basin GWMA was declared in 1990 because nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in many area groundwater samples exceed the federal safe drinking water standard. A 4-year interagency hydrogeologic investigation to determine the extent of contamination and to identify potential sources of contamination was conducted. The DEQ and local area residents and governments formed a committee to develop the action plan to address the contamination concerns in the basin. The City of Irrigon has been an active participant on this local committee since its inception.

Water quantity is also of concern in north Morrow County and west Umatilla County with four Critical Groundwater Areas being designated by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Impacting the Irrigon area are the Ordnance Basalt and Ordnance Gravel Critical Groundwater Areas with limitations to new water uses within the designated area. Additional information about Critical Groundwater Areas and those found around Irrigon can be found on the Oregon Water Resources Department website.

Solid waste management, a major component of land quality, is better managed today than when the Comprehensive Plan was first adopted. Sanitary Disposal out of Hermiston provides regular solid waste services under a franchise agreement depositing the solid waste at the Finley Buttes Regional Landfill which is located about 9 miles south of Irrigon along Bombing Range Road. There is also a recycling depot located within the city limits with additional solid waste disposal opportunities at Finley Buttes, the North Morrow County Transfer Station, and Sanitary Disposal in Hermiston.

The City Finds that:

  • Air quality at Irrigon is good and is within standards set by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Occasional dust storms may be a seasonal nuisance.
  • The City water supply is of good quality at Irrigon and is within DEQ standards.
  • Solid waste disposal facilities are adequate to the needs of the residents of Irrigon. Recycling opportunities are available within the City of Irrigon with additional opportunities at the North Morrow County Transfer Station or the Transfer Station located at Sanitary Disposal’s facility in Hermiston.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To limit all discharges from existing and future development to meet applicable state or federal environmental quality statutes, rules, and standards.
  • To discourage industries that would have a significant detrimental effect on the environmental resources of the area or alternatively encourage offsetting mitigation.

Goal 7: Areas Subject to Natural Disasters and Hazards - To protect life and property from natural disasters and hazards.

Morrow County adopted a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan in 2006 and again in 2016 with both editions including a City of Irrigon Annex addressing those natural hazard concerns found within the City. The Federal Emergency Management Administration requires update of this Plan every five years. The City of Irrigon also adopted this Plan by Resolution 19-17 on October 15, 2019 meeting the requirements found in Goal 7. The natural hazards discussed within the Plan include drought, wildfire, flooding, windstorms, winter storm, and to a lesser extent, landslides, seismic and volcanic events.

The City Finds that:

  • The currently adopted Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan serves as the City of Irrigon’s Goal 7 program.
  • The floodplain development program has been updated since the original Comprehensive Plan was adopted, and regulations are now found within the Development Code.  The City of Irrigon is participating in the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Most of the land within the flood plain is along the Columbia River and is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • There are no extensive areas with slope greater than 12% in the City of Irrigon or in the Urban Growth Boundary.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To discourage development in floodplains, natural drainage ways, on steep slopes, and other hazardous areas.
  • To limit development within the floodplain to open space, recreation or other appropriate uses which minimize the potential loss of life or property and which comply with federal and state regulations.
  • In areas of known natural disasters and hazards to require site specific information clearly determining the degree of hazard present from applicants who seek approval to develop residential, commercial, or industrial uses.

Goal 8: Recreational Needs - To satisfy the recreational needs of the citizens of Irrigon and visitors.

The Columbia River is the primary recreational resource near Irrigon. The river provides for a variety of water-oriented recreational activities including boating, water skiing, hydroplane racing, swimming, and fishing. The Army Corps of Engineers owns significant land resources, leasing an area to the Irrigon Park District allowing for a marina and park that provides a variety of recreational opportunities. A portion of the Columbia River Heritage Trail travels through the Irrigon Marina Park as it covers nearly 33 miles across the northern edge of Morrow County.

The City of Irrigon was successful in obtaining the abandoned railroad right-of-way that aligns with the north side of Highway 730 using the land to create a series of parks and space for government services. The City Hall complex, including the Irrigon Branch of the Oregon Trail Library and a Community Room, and the Post Office can be found in this area along with a skate park, covered farmers market area and restroom, and a children’s park. There is also a walking trail that connects these amenities with A.C. Houghton school.

There are a significant number of other recreational opportunities in Morrow County and west Umatilla County including but not limited to national forest recreation opportunities, golf courses, theaters, parks and walking trails, and a bowling alley.

The City Finds that:

  • Irrigon has a riverside park that was developed by the Corps of Engineers and is maintained by the Irrigon Park District. Picnic facilities, a boat ramp, and swimming area provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.
  • There is a senior center serving the City of Irrigon.
  • The Columbia River and forestland in southern Morrow and eastern Umatilla Counties provide opportunities for outdoor recreation including fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and winter sports.
  • The City of Irrigon is developing a series of parks along Highway 730 connecting them with a walking trail. Additional recreational opportunities such as pickleball courts are being planned.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To develop public meeting places and indoor recreational facilities for all age groups.
  • To develop neighborhood parks and outdoor recreational facilities to meet the needs of residents and visitors as the community grows.
  • To require the dedication of parkland or to require other investment as a part of the review and approval of large subdivisions and planned unit developments.
  • To plan community recreation facilities in conjunction with existing and planned school facilities so that they complement each other in function.
  • To continue to develop the park blocks along Highway 730 providing rest areas, parks or other community gathering areas.
  • To strengthen and develop connections to the Columbia River and the Heritage Trail to recognize its importance as a recreational amenity and tourist destination.
  • To support the development of destination recreation opportunities on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers abutting the Columbia River. The City will encourage and support the Army Corps of Engineers in the creation of a master plan for recreational development along the riverfront to include amenities such as lodging, park space, boating facilities, and other outdoor recreation features.
  • To encourage tourist commercial uses such as motels, restaurants, gas stations, and gift shops to cluster in or adjacent to other commercial areas.

Goal 9: Economic Development - To diversify and improve the economy of Irrigon.

The purpose of Goal 9 planning is to make sure communities have enough land available to realize economic growth and development opportunities. Commercial and industrial development takes a variety of shapes and leads to economic activities that are vital to the health, welfare, and prosperity of Oregon's citizens. To be ready for these opportunities, it is suggested that local governments perform Economic Opportunity Analyses based on a 20-year forecast of population and job growth. Each community has a unique local vision for economic development. Ideally, this vision reflects community aspirations and has specific objectives and actions.

Under Goal 9, local governments should have a working inventory of areas suitable for economic growth that can be provided with public services. These inventories primarily focus on planning for major industrial and commercial developments and having a ready supply of land appropriately zoned and located for those opportunities and local investments. As with all areas of the comprehensive plan, the amount of land planned for economic development should be adequate for a 20-year supply. The economic development plans formed by a community often use one or more market incentives to encourage the type of development a community would like to see. These might include tax incentives or disincentives, land use controls, or preferential assessments.

The City of Irrigon has designated approximately 40 acres for light industrial development. The site is located south of Highway 730 between 14th street and 15th street (the eastern city limit). There are also areas zoned for commercial activity along Highway 730 allowing for the development of restaurants, motels, personal service providers, and other general commercial activities. There are also allowances for community and public service delivery. The City does own several parcels in the commercial zone with plans for development through various public/private mechanisms.

The City Finds that:

  • The Irrigon economy is primarily dependent on agriculture, including corporate farms, processing plants, and other farm equipment and supply businesses in northern Morrow and western Umatilla Counties. Energy generation facilities, construction, and other manufacturing businesses in the area also have significant impact.
  • Expansion in agri-business, energy generation and industries in northern Morrow County and western Umatilla County is expected to influence the economy of Irrigon through increased population and consequently through increased trade and services in the city.
  • That there is a need to create new commercial development within the City to strengthen Irrigon’s economic stability and capability.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To protect those areas suitable for industrial development from encroach­ment of incompatible land uses.
  • Protect industrial land from incompatible residential and commercial activities or rezone if supply not needed within the City limits to prevent land use and traffic conflicts.
  • To encourage diversified, non-polluting industrial development.
  • To minimize high noise levels, heavy traffic volumes, and other undesir­able effects of heavy commercial and industrial developments.
  • To expand job opportunities and reduce unemployment, reduce out-migration of youth, and accommodate the growth of the local labor force.
  • To maximize the utilization of local manpower as job opportunities increase.
  • To cooperate with and encourage the use of local manpower training agencies and programs to provide critically needed skills or education to train or retrain the unemployed, underemployed, and economically disadvantaged of the areas.
  • To cluster commercial uses intended to meet the business needs of area residents and highway travelers only in designated areas to prevent the undesirable effects of a strip commercial area.
  • To evaluate fees and procedures to ensure commercial development to add strength and diversity to commercial offerings in the City.
  • Mixed use… home businesses… commercial information from below…

Goal 10: Housing - To increase the supply of housing to allow for population growth and to provide for the housing needs of the citizens of Irrigon.

In 2018-2019, Morrow County worked with the City of Irrigon and a team of consultants to conduct a County-wide housing study, including an analysis of future housing needs, an inventory of buildable residential land, and a set of strategies to address current and future housing needs. That effort helped form the basis for the most recent update of the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan. The City Council adopted the 2019 Housing Strategies Report through Resolution 19-19 on November 19, 2019.

Irrigon has an estimated 2018 population of 2,338 (Portland State University (PSU) population estimate). In total, the City has grown by roughly 338 people, or 17%, since 2000. Additionally, Irrigon had an estimated 792 housing units in 2018.

In comparison to the state, Irrigon tends to have a lower share of both owner and renter households spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Nevertheless, 22% of owner households and 38% of renter households fall within this category. Renters have disproportionately lower incomes relative to homeowners. The burden of housing costs is felt more broadly for these households, and there is a need for more affordable rental units in Irrigon, as in most communities in Oregon.

There is support for more ownership housing at price ranges above $200,000. This is because most housing in the City is clustered at the lower price points, while analysis of household incomes and ability to pay indicates that some residents could afford housing at higher price points. Additionally, there is a need for rental units at the lowest price level to serve those households currently paying a high share of their income towards rent. The City’s housing needs analysis indicates a modest surplus of apartments in the $300 to $900 per month rent range. This represents the common range of rent prices in the county, where rents for most units fall. Rentals at more expensive levels generally represent single family homes or larger properties for rent.

Irrigon is projected to add roughly 140 households between 2019 and 2039, with accompanying population growth of 430 people. (The number of households differs from the number of housing units, because the total number of housing units includes a certain percentage of vacant units.)

Irrigon has some capacity for residential development with approximately 196 acres of buildable land and zoned capacity for approximately 388 housing units which exceeds the projected 20-year need of 153 housing units. However, a large share of the buildable land is concentrated in several large parcels that are under farm use and may not be available for development in the short term. Additionally, a few large parcels are constrained or difficult to serve, limiting the housing unit capacity on these parcels without significant investments in public infrastructure and willingness of property owners to sell or develop land.

The City finds that:

  • The Housing Needs Analysis results (2019) show need for nearly 153 net new housing units by 2039.
  • Of the new units needed, roughly 85% are projected to be ownership units, while 15% are projected to be rental units.
  • 54% of the new units are projected to be single family detached homes, while 3% is projected to be some form of attached housing, and 42% are projected to be mobile homes.
  • Of ownership units, 55% are projected to be single-family homes, and 45% mobile homes.
  • An estimated 50% of new rental units are projected to be single-family detached, and 22% will be some form of new attached buildings, and 28% mobile homes.
  • Irrigon’s current housing capacity (supply) of approximately 388 housing units exceeds the projected 20-year need (demand) of approximately 153 units.

The City finds the following Strategies could assist the City to Meet Future Housing Needs:

As part of the 2018-19 Morrow County Housing Study, the project team identified a set of strategies that the County and its cities can implement to meet a range of local housing needs to accommodate households of varying sizes, incomes, and other circumstances. Strategies vary in their applicability among different jurisdictions in Morrow County. A list of strategies that may be applicable to Irrigon follow. Additional information about these strategies can be found in the Morrow County Housing Strategies Report (2019).

Land Supply Strategies

  • Evaluate and Address Infrastructure Issues
  • Ensure Land Zoned for Higher Density Uses is not Developed at Lower Densities
  • Research UGB Expansion or Adjustment Opportunities if Growth Exceeds Projected Rates

Policy and Code Strategies

  • Adopt Supportive and Inclusive Comprehensive Plan Policies
  • Enhance Local Amenities and Services
  • Adopt Minimum Density Standards
  • Incentivize Affordable and Workforce Housing
  • Facilitate “Missing Middle” Housing Types in All Residential Zones
  • Support High Density Housing in Commercial Zones Promote Accessory Dwelling Units
  • Encourage Cottage Cluster Housing
  • Support Accessory Dwelling Units

Incentives for Development

  • System Development Charges (SDC) and/or Fee Waivers
  • Tax Exemptions and Abatements

Funding Sources and Uses

  • Construction Excise Tax
  • Tax Increment Financing (Urban Renewal)
  • Local Housing Development Funds
  • Other Property Owner Assistance Programs
  • Public/Private Partnerships
  • Land Acquisition/ Use Public Lands
  • Community Land Trust
  • Regional Collaboration & Capacity Building

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To encourage a moderate rate of growth and a mixed population of varying age groups, incomes, and lifestyles.
  • To encourage and cooperate with public agencies, non-profit organizations, and private developers involved in supporting the creation of housing for people with development of low and moderate incomes housing.
  • To encourage residential development which provides prospective buyers with a variety of residential lot sizes, a diversity of housing types, and a range in prices.
  • To encourage a mix of residential uses with other compatible uses in appropriate locations.
  • To encourage “missing middle” housing types that would include townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and garden or courtyard apartments that fall between high density apartment buildings and lower density detached housing.
  • To allow for the development of Accessory Dwelling Units in all residential zones, per state law.
  • To provide flexibility in implementing residential zoning standards to support the development of a wide range of housing types while mitigating the impacts of development.
  • To encourage efficient use of residential land within the Urban Growth Boundary, provide a sufficient amount of residential land to accommodate residential growth, and regularly monitor and periodically update an inventory of buildable residential land.
  • To encourage the maintenance and development of manufactured homes as an affordable housing choice in appropriate locations.
  • To encourage maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing housing stock.
  • To plan and regulate residential development to meet housing needs while preserving and protecting natural resources and reducing risks associated with natural hazards.

Goal 11: Public Facilities and Services - To plan and develop a timely, orderly, and efficient arrangement of public facilities and services to serve as a framework for urban and rural development.

Public facilities and services are a crucial part of our day to day lives. Built and planned into the urban fabric of the world around us, they include water and sewer services, police and fire protection, health services, recreation facilities, energy and communication services, and services provided by the local government like building permitting or public works.

The City of Irrigon has in place the following public facilities plans that meet current and long-range needs: Water Master Plan (2006), Water Management and Conservation Plan (2006), and Wastewater Facility Plan (2017).

Community Services

Schools and Libraries: Irrigon schools are a part of the Morrow County school district with administrative offices at Heppner. There are two elementary schools in Irrigon; A.C. Houghton serves kindergarten through third grade and Irrigon Elementary houses fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The Irrigon Junior Senior High School serves the seventh through twelfth grades.

The Oregon Trail Library District serving Morrow County has a Library in Irrigon housed in the same building as City Hall.

Law Enforcement: Law enforcement services in Irrigon are provided by the Morrow County Sheriff's Department that is headquartered In Heppner. Specific services are administered under a contract with the Sheriff’s Department; patrol services and marine services are done as a regular part of the Sheriff’s Department operations. The Morrow County Sheriff's Department is led by an elected sheriff, with an undersheriff, an operations division, communications division, administrative division, and corrections division. The Undersheriff also serves as the Morrow County Emergency Manager.

Fire Protection: Fire protection services are provided by the Irrigon Rural Fire Protection District (IRFPD) covering approximately 28mi² of structural and wildland fire protection from the Umatilla-Morrow County Line on the east to Patterson Ferry Road on the west; and the Columbia River on the north to Depot Lane on the south. Irrigon RFPD covers the City of Irrigon and a rural area composed primarily of grass and agricultural lands. Irrigon RFPD has one station located within the Irrigon City Limits and is staffed by approximately 15 volunteers.

Social and Health Services: Social and health services have limited availability within the City of Irrigon with more extensive services available in Boardman and Hermiston. In Irrigon you will find the Morrow County Health District providing medical services; the Senior Center offers activities and regular meals; the Morrow County Veteran’s Services Coordinator has an office in Irrigon; and the Irrigon/Boardman Emergency Assistance Center provides emergency food assistance. Transportation services are provided by Kayak, a service of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and Morrow County Transportation, often referred to as the LOOP.

The City Finds that:

  • Irrigon is located within the Ordnance Basalt critical groundwater area as delineated and regulated by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Present policy calls for no further wells to be drilled into the non-recharging aquifer, and all such existing wells to be monitored and regulated.
  • Services such as fire, social and health, parks and recreation and communications are generally adequate to meet present needs and near future needs. There is some need for improvement in police services and an increase in volunteers for the Irrigon RFPD.
  • Irrigon’s dual sewer systems put a strain on infrastructure and economic capabilities.
  • Irrigon’s present water system meets current demands but is not sustainable for future development. An additional water source (well) will be needed.
  • Current water distribution system meets demand but not systematically developed for most effective servicing.
  • Current policy of improving underground infrastructure before transportation developments or improvements saves valuable resources but at times the public desires roads over utilities.
  • Current city pedestrian and transportation services meet the need but will need to be maintained and upgraded to meet future demands and growth.
  • Irrigon’s recreational facilities are adequate.
  • Irrigon has multiple franchises with various utilities, such as phone, power, natural gas, internet, and broadband, to provide services to the public.
  • Irrigon has a consistent permitting and development framework in place to ensure sustainability, land use, and code requirements.
  • Irrigon’s Code may need updating relative to water and sewer facilities to meet urban developments.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To develop, maintain, update, and expand police and fire services, streets, and sidewalks, water and sewer systems, as necessary to provide adequate facilities and services to the community.
  • To require underground installation of utilities in all new developments and as major improvements are made to areas with above ground utilities.
  • To cooperate in the development of programs and housing opportunities for senior citizens.
  • To encourage the expansion of health services.
  • To work with Morrow County to insure adequate provision for and control of solid waste disposal sites.
  • To plan public facilities, services, and utilities maintained by the City of Irrigon to meet expected demand.
  • To require the dedication of school sites as a part of the review and approval of large subdivisions and planned unit developments, as necessary.
  • To provide City water and sewer services only after the area to be served has been annexed to the City.
  • To develop all underground utilities, including water, wastewater, power, and any others, before any surface roadwork or trails are brought up to full capabilities.
  • New development will have full conventional services as part of the development, restricting development on onsite systems.
  • No private domestic wells will be drilled within the jurisdiction of the city. All water services will be provided by the current municipal system. Existing wells prior to 2017 are grandfathered for landscaping and irrigation purposes.
  • Continue the expansion of the public greenway system along with pathways that lead to improved and sustainable health.
  • To seek and collaborate with Morrow County, State Parks, and local agencies on ways and means to improve and expand current recreational facilities and opportunities.
  • To improve opportunity for internet and broadband services to reach and connect with members of the community for personal and professional purposes.
  • To require sufficient open and recreational space in accordance with Development Code Standards.

Goal 12: Transportation - To provide and encourage a safe, convenient, and economic transportation system.

The City of Irrigon adopted a Transportation System Plan in the late 1990s and has updated and augmented that Plan on several occasions, most recently in 2014. Various components of the Transportation System Plan include a Downtown Plan and a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. To eliminate duplication and limit confusion the Comprehensive Plan will incorporate and reference the Transportation System Plan as the Goal 12 requirement for the City of Irrigon.

The City Finds that:

  • Most city streets are paved and are well maintained.
  • Highway 730 provides freight access for Irrigon’s commercial enterprises and together with county roads, provides passenger access of the city.
  • Commercial air service is available at Pasco and Walla Walla, Washington, and Pendleton and Portland, Oregon. Amtrak services are no longer available along the southern side of the Columbia River, but there is service along the north side with access in Portland, Oregon, or Pasco, Washington. Regional and national bus service is provided by Greyhound and Estrella Blanca. Kayak, a service of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, provides service from LaGrande to Irrigon with regular service to Hermiston. Morrow County Transportation/The LOOP is growing from a demand service to providing limited fixed route services within Morrow County with the potential for connections to Hermiston and Arlington.
  • Developments at the Port of Morrow and at the Port of Umatilla have great impact on the demand for housing, schools, and other community facilities and services in Irrigon.
  • Expansion in agri-business, energy generation and industries in northern Morrow County and western Umatilla County is expected to influence the economy of Irrigon through increased population and consequently through increased trade and services in the city.

It shall be City Policy:

  • To support the creation of a network on enhanced streets and accessways that connect community destinations. This includes extending the existing trail system along Highway 730 and the Columbia River Heritage Trail.
  • To provide an integrated transportation system that will link the city with regional production, distribution and marketing centers.
  • To incorporate safety and efficiency factors in transportation system design to allow people and goods to travel conveniently.
  • To minimize conflicts between through, freight and local traffic on Highway 730 to reduce traffic hazards and expedite the flow of traffic.
  • To create, maintain and improve a transportation system which is current, flexible, and coordinated with the comprehensive plan.
  • To develop good transportation linkage (pedestrian, vehicular, bicycle, etc.) between residential areas and major activity centers.
  • To permit orderly and timely expansion of the transportation system in an economically feasible manner.
  • To develop good transportation linkage (pedestrian, vehicular, bicycle, etc.) between residential areas and activity centers.
  • To design local streets to provide access to abutting land uses and to serve the needs of passenger cars, pedestrians, and bicycles.
  • To ensure right-of-way acquisition and construction of streets, both by the City and by development, shall be based on adopted design standards for each level of street — arterial, collector, and local.
  • To preserve right-of-way for planned transportation facilities through exactions, voluntary dedication, or setbacks.
  • To require new developments to dedicate and fully improve local streets to standards of the Development Code.
  • To determine the contribution of traffic from adjacent development to determine the appropriate level of responsibility for improving collector and local streets.
  • To require full-street improvements as part of a project’s conditions of approval for subdivisions and commercial developments.
  • To ensure that access locations shall be placed appropriately to limit potential turning movement conflicts, weaving maneuvers over short distances and congestion along facilities. Arterial streets shall have the most stringent standards, with moderate standards for collector streets. Local streets shall have the least stringent standards.
  • To develop a pedestrian and bicycle system consisting of on street and off-street sidewalks, bicycle paths, and multi-use paths to connect major activity centers, increase transportation options, and decrease reliance on autos.
  • To provide sidewalks along all arterial streets not served by multi-use paths.
  • To include sidewalks in any full reconstruction of arterial and collector streets and in the development of new streets.

Goal 13: Energy Conservation – To conserve energy and develop and use renewable energy sources.

Goal 13 requires local governments to consider the effects of its comprehensive planning decision on energy consumption. Many land use decisions have a direct effect on the energy we consume. At the time the goal was enacted, Oregonians were particularly concerned by development of new homes that blocked neighbors' sunlight, which can have impacts on passive heating and availability of natural light.

Today, concerns about renewable energy sources are seen through a different lens. Innovation in the areas of solar and wind energy have made them increasingly popular in Oregon. Concern about climate change has resulted in an increase in public and private interest in and development of alternative energy sources. Goal 13 was not written to govern or direct the production of energy, but its conservation.

In and around Irrigon there is evidence that energy generation and transmission can also be good business as seen with the growth of natural gas power plants in the region, and more recently the development of both wind and solar resources. There is also significant power transmission investment in eastern Oregon with more being planned. Energy development has been a source of economic opportunity for the Port of Morrow with the development of food processing and data centers, developments that require water and energy. The goal also directs cities and counties to have systems and incentives in place for recycling programs.

The City finds that:

  • Energy efficient buildings and appliances are beneficial to our residents.
  • Morrow County is an energy production and transmission center for eastern Oregon and the larger Pacific Northwest.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To revise subdivision regulations to require that the orientation of street and buildings allow for utilization of solar energy and require landscaping to reduce summer cooling needs.
  • To design the extension and upgrading of water and sewer lines and facilities to minimize energy use.

Goal 14: Urbanization – To provide for an orderly and efficient transition from rural to urban land use.

Irrigon is surrounded by an urban growth boundary intended to designate where Irrigon expects to grow over a 20-year period. This growth can occur with new houses, industrial facilities, businesses, or public facilities such as parks and utilities. Restrictions in areas outside of Irrigon’s urban growth boundary protect farmland and prohibit urban development.

An urban growth boundary is expanded through a joint effort involving both Irrigon and Morrow County, and in coordination with special districts that provide important services in our community. An urban growth boundary expansion process typically includes some level of citizen participation. Once land is included in an urban growth boundary it is eligible for annexation in to Irrigon. While annexation is not specifically considered a land use action Irrigon could consider adding the annexation process to our Development Code.

The City finds that:

  • Irrigon’s urban growth boundary should be evaluated regularly to determine if there is sufficient land to meet a 20-year planning period.

It Shall Be City Policy:

  • To establish an urban growth boundary to identify and separate urbanizable land from rural land.
  • To develop a cooperative process between Irrigon and Morrow County for the establishment and change of the urban growth boundary.
  • To encourage development to occur within a relatively compact urban area with controlled outward growth.
  • To consider only those areas that are within the urban growth boundary for annexation to the City.
  • To establish a policy for revising or amending the urban growth boundary.
  • To work with Morrow County to develop policies and regulations to manage land development within the urban growth boundary and outside city limits.
  • To maintain an interest in and to have input into future utilization of land now owned by the Corps of Engineers and leased to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This land is within the city limits but is not included within the urban growth boundary.

Review and Revision of the Comprehensive Plan

Authorization to Initiate Amendments. The Comprehensive Plan for the City of Irrigon may be periodically amended upon authorization of the City Council, Planning Commission, or when a property owner or an authorized representative makes application to the City. The need may arise from changes in State law or rule, or as a result of case law. Additionally, changes may be necessary due to growth and development within the City, such as urban growth boundary adjustments or rezoning. Various Oregon statutes and rules provide the basis for the City of Irrigon Comprehensive Plan review and revision process a Comprehensive Plan Amendment may be one or a combination of:

  1. Legislative decisions – made when considering changes or additions to the language of the Development Code, Comprehensive Plan, inventories, or maps. Legislative revisions include land use changes that have widespread or significant impact beyond an immediate area. Legislative revisions address quantitative changes such as significant impact to a transportation system, or qualitative change in the character of the land use itself, such as a zoning conversion of residential to industrial use.
  2. Quasi-judicial decisions – made when a land use decision considers issues normally related to one or a limited number of parcels and apply existing criteria. Example may be changes to the urban growth boundary, or inventory, map, or zone changes where the revisions do not have significant effect beyond the immediate area of the change.

Public Hearings on Amendments. The Planning Commission shall conduct at least one public hearing on the proposed amendment within 60 days after the amendment is proposed and shall recommend to the City Council approval, disapproval or modified approval of the proposed amendment. After receiving the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the City Council shall hold at least one public hearing on the proposed amendment.

Notice. Notice will be provided according to the provisions of the City of Irrigon Development Code.

Process. All proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and implementing ordinances must be submitted to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) at least 35 days before the first evidentiary hearing on adoption of the proposed changes. Where two or more local governments propose to agree on and mutually adopt a change to a Comprehensive Plan, such as an urban growth boundary amendment, the local governments must jointly submit the required notice to DLCD meeting the 35-day requirement.

Criteria. The following criteria must be considered before approval of an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan is given:

  1. Address the Criteria found in the City of Irrigon Development Code at {insert citation}
  2. Show how the request complies with the relevant statewide land use planning Goals. Include evidence of coordination and compliance with State agencies regarding the statewide Planning Goals.

Limitations on Reapplications. No application of a property owner for an amendment to the text of this Comprehensive Plan, Comprehensive Plan Map, Development Code or Zoning Map shall be considered by the Planning Commission within the six (6) month period immediately following denial of a previous application. If in the opinion of the Planning Commission, new evidence or a change of circumstances warrant it, however, the Planning Commission may permit a new application.

Final Decision. The decision of the City Council will be final unless appealed. Eligibility to appeal is governed by Oregon Revised Statute and Oregon Administrative Rule.