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Gas Station Restrictions Letter for Washington County Oregon Land Use Staff

We want to see Washington County pass laws (land use codes) that will ensure an application for a gas station near public parks, wetlands, or other sensitive areas can never be considered again. The next step on this mission is working with Washington County Land Use Staff to start a program to update the code.

Want to sign the letter? Please read the letter below and email to add your name to the letter.


Subject: Gas Station Siting Restrictions for Sensitive Areas

Hello Washington County Land Use Staff-

Update: I am submitting this updated request and petition for the Long Range Planning Work Plan backlog item titled: “Gas station siting requirements” at the request of Suzanne Savin and Theresa Cherniak after our June 15, 2022 meeting. This updated petition includes 283 signatures from residents representing all districts in the County and a full reproduction of “Governing the Gas Spigot” from the Environmental Law Institute’s 2021 journal as a summary of the supporting evidence for Staff and Commissioner review.

We are citizens and organizations that want to see Washington County put land use restrictions on gas stations near sensitive areas. Data from Oregon DEQ, Federal EPA, and other organizations clearly show the economic, health, and environmental risks that gas stations and their underground petroleum tanks pose (see reports). And land use restrictions are the right tool to reduce and isolate these risks from sensitive public and private lands.

In fact, many other municipalities have made similar land use code updates coast-to-coast from Santa Rosa, California (pop 176,000) to Montgomery County, Maryland (pop 1.055mil) (see municipal codes).

Our request: We want Washington County land use codes updated to require that gas stations, currently operating gas stations excluded, be a minimum of 1,500 feet from any public park or playground, school, hospital, church, theater, dwelling unit, public library or building for public assembly; or any wetland, stream, river, flood plain, or environmentally sensitive area. We also want to see this applied to all zones across the County without an option for variance to ensure equitable and objective application of this requirement.

We believe this is an urgent issue: here are just two catastrophic examples from 2021 of how gas station storage can fail and endanger public lands and infrastructure:

We have a shared belief that land use codes should both encourage economic development and “provide for the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Washington County” as the Washington County Community Development Code states (municode). And we believe that the data and reports we have provided supports the case for restricting gas station siting to promote the health, safety and welfare of the County.

Thank You,

Do you agree with this letter? Please send an email to to add your name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did you arrive at the 1,500ft setback requirement?

A: We chose 1,500 ft setback because it was the highest municipal restriction we had found in our research short of an outright ban on new gas stations. For example it is the setback in Rock Hill, CT. The minimum consensus amongst municipalities we researched seems to be around 500 ft. You can see a few examples and direct links to example codes on this page:

Q: Is there Washington County Community Participation Organization (CPO) engagement?

A: Yes, presentations were made in Feb. 2022 to both CPO1 and CPO7. There was positive reception at both meetings and many members signed the letter after the meetings.

Q: Are County Commissioners aware of these requests?

A: Yes, a number of public comments have been made on the topic to both the Board of Commissioners and the Planning Commission. Also, this topic appeared on the Long Range Planning Work Plan status report presented at the October 18 2022 BCC work session:

Q: Do you understand that future changes to land use code will not affect accepted land use applications?

A: Yes. Although this campaign is an offshoot of the opposition to Land Use Case L2200199 (prev L2100244) we understand that any changes to code will not affect the outcome of this case. However, we are motivated to ensure that gas station developments with the potential negative economic, environmental, and health impacts of that development are not considered again in Washington County.

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Writing a letter to local media is a powerful way to bring attention to our request to Washington County. Use the letter below as a template to craft your own message and submit it to the media organizations below.

Example Letter

Your average 10 pump gas station stores 50,000 gallons of petroleum underground in gigantic tanks. And if those underground tanks, dispensers, or piping fail they can contaminate ground water, public parks, or wetlands. And a leak isn’t a far off hypothetical: in 2021 Oregon DEQ reported a 3% annual leak rate for underground storage tanks facilities.

That is why municipalities across the country are updating their land use codes to ensure gas stations are placed apart from sensitive areas. For example, in Rocky Hill, Connecticut no gas station can be built within 1,500 feet of a public park or playground, school, hospital, church, theater, public library or building for public assembly. In Harper Woods, Michigan it is 500 feet from any location of public assembly. The list goes on and on.

Gas station cleanup can take decades and can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. According to an Oregon DEQ public records request an gas station abandoned by its owners in Yamhill, Oregon has cost taxpayers over $500,000 in cleanup over the last decade and the cleanup is incomplete.

Passing land use updates is an urgent issue in fast growing Washington County. Here are just two examples of catastrophic west coast leaks last year: 14,000 gallons were released under Highway 99 in Monmouth, Oregon in April. 1,300 gallons of fuel leaked into the Alhambra storm water wash after a driver hit a gas pump in Pasadena California in December.

All municipalities across Oregon need to start taking common sense action to protect taxpayers from the risks of gas station leaks.

All of the referenced data is available at