Deschutes County zoning pits mule deer against churches

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Deschutes County is wading into a long-running zoning debate that pits mule deer against churches.

The Bulletin reports Thursday that a portion of the county is zoned to protect mule deer and other animals and the zoning prohibits churches as a use on those lands.

The issue came to a head three years ago when the county told a local pastor he was in violation for hosting a church at his home and conducting outdoor weddings within the zoned area.

The Deschutes County Commission is considering five options to address the dispute.

Commissioner Tammy Baney wants to see a compromise that allows small Bible studies and other gatherings in the zone, while prohibiting large events during the winter.

County staff will prepare a draft of an amendment to the zoning rules following board’s guidance.

Pastor John Shepherd argues the county’s zoning violates his religious freedoms.