The Code Amendment Process
On occasion, it may be appropriate to amend sections of the Benton County Development Code to response to changing policies or conditions or to clarify the text. One example of changing policies is the passing of Measure 91 and the subsequent Senate Bill 3400, which spelled out the rules governing recreational marijuana and directed local cities and counties to amend their code accordingly.
1. Process Initiation
The County Board of Commissioners may initiate an amendment to the Development Code. The Planning Commission may also initiate a code amendment, if the concept is subsequently approved by the Board of Commissioners.
2. Staff Research
Staff creates a rough draft of the proposed code amendments. Staff holds work sessions with both the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners to review and discuss the proposed amendments.
3. Public Notice
Notice of the proposed code amendments is posted and mailed as described below. Any testimony received from the public is included in the staff report mailed to the Planning Commissioners prior to the hearing.
4. Planning Commission Review – First Public Hearing
A public hearing is held before the Planning Commission. Written public testimony is given to the Planning Commission prior to the public hearing, and an opportunity for verbal testimony is provided during the public hearing.
5. Planning Commission Recommendation
Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to approve, deny, or modify the proposed text amendment.
6. Board of Commissioners Review – Second Public Hearing
A second public hearing with opportunity for public comment is held by the Board of County Commissioners. The Board then makes a decision to accept, reject, or modify the proposed text amendment in whole or in part.
Public Notice for a legislative hearing is required to be published in the local newspaper. Additionally, if the proposed amendments further restrict the use of property, state law requires notice to be sent to each affected property owner [ORS 215.503]. This is commonly known as “Ballot Measure 56” notice, and gets sent out to property owners whose name and address is shown on the last available complete tax assessment roll.
The current zoning code amendments pertaining to commercial growing of marijuana in the Rural Residential Zone do not require Ballot Measure 56 notice since commercial growing is currently prohibited in the Rural Residential Zone. As a courtesy to property owners, the Community Development Department notified each property owner in the Rural Residential zone to help encourage public engagement throughout the process.
Public testimony is an important part of this process since code amendments generally are not put on the ballot of a general election. Therefore, the only way to get your voice heard is through written testimony submitted prior to Planning Commission or Board of Commissioners meetings or speaking during the public comment period of the public hearings. This hearing is where both written and verbal testimony are considered by the Commissioners. Whether you are for or against the proposed changes, your voice will not be heard if you don’t speak up!
Additional Public Engagement
In order to encourage public engagement throughout the process, the Community Development Department is holding two additional meetings in advance of the public hearings. The Code Amendment Workshop on November 2nd is designed to help craft rules and regulations that will make up public policy. After staff reviews feedback and new information gathered from the workshop, a second meeting will be held on December 8th to share the results and describe the next steps the County plans to take with regard to this topic.