City weighing EOA objections
The analysis was conducted for the city by a reputable Portland consultant firm. However, it was commissioned and underwritten by parties hoping to win approval to develop a major regional shopping on a Three Mile Lane site currently carrying industrial zoning.
Local land use watchdog organizations leveled sharp criticism at the resulting work product, saying it appeared to be skewed in favor of the people picking up the tab.
In a letter to the committee, 1,000 Friends of Oregon and its local offshoot, Friends of Yamhill County, argued, “If the draft EOA is adopted without wholesale revision, the ultimate outcome will be a foregone conclusion, especially in light of council action earlier this year that removed previous protections for industrial land from the comprehensive plan and replaced them with language basing the amount and location of industrial land solely on the EOA.”
City Planner Doug Montgomery responded, “I just respectfully disagree with their view. To work around a pre-determined outcome would not in any way serve the committee, or our elected officials, or our economic future. To do so would be shortsighted.”
One of the complaints raised by the land use watchdog groups is a projection for falling industrial employment in McMinnville over the next 20 years.
That would saddle the city with excess industrial land that could thus be rezoned commercial — like the land developers are eying on Three Mile Lane. But they said they could see no basis for it.
Montgomery defended the finding, saying it accurately reflects recent trends, which show industrial employment falling from 25.3 percent in 2003 to 22 percent in 2010.
According to the draft EOA, industrial jobs accounted for 31.2 percent of local employment in 1999. And Montgomery said the most recent check shows the portion has dropped to about 19 percent.
The committee was asked whether it wanted to assume industrial employment would continue to fall or hold steady, and it chose the latter, Montgomery said. “The direction was that we try to temper the direction of the line, or at least hold it flat,” Montgomery said.
The land use groups contended the committee should also have been offered a third option — increasing industrial employment, predicated on success by groups like the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership in ongoing efforts to attract new industry.
They said it’s not unreasonable to assume that the city’s industrial base will grow in coming years. Incorporating that assumption into the EOA, they said, would serve to make it “more consistent with the Oregon Employment Department’s regional forecast.”
They went on to say, “The OED … expects many industrial sectors to exceed the overall jobs growth rate, and some, such as construction and durable goods manufacturing, are expected to grow at about 2 percent per year. It is reasonable to expect McMinnville to experience strong industrial growth, especially in light of the recession’s disproportionate suppressive effect on industrial jobs.”
The city of Eugene predicted “a realistic 4 percent increase in industrial job mix,” the groups said, saying, “an important consideration was Eugene’s desire to promote robust industrial growth and protect its existing land supply for that purpose.”
Instead of growing its year-round, family-wage industrial base, McMinnville has been expanding its seasonal, lower-paying service and retail sector, the groups said. That’s not a wise course, they argued, noting, “retail wages are the lowest of any sector.”
Montgomery agreed that producing new industrial jobs is desirable. He said that’s a mission the city has embraced, in fact, with its role in the MEDP.
“The city can ensure we have an adequate supply, which is what this process is about,” he said. But he said there were other factors in play as well.
Montgomery said the city put a cross-section of the most knowledgeable people it could find on the committee, including former McMinnville Mayor Ed Gormley, former Land Use Board of Appeals Chair Marilyn Worrix, McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Phil Hutchinson and representatives from Cascade Steel, among others.
“These are people that I think come with some credentials and some credibility in the community, and it’s that group that’s reviewing the initial draft,” he said. He termed the draft “well-researched and well-documented,” but said, “There is still room for healthy debate about where we go in the future, and that’s what future meetings of the committee and the planning commission and council will be about.”
Montgomery promised the objections raised by the land use watchdog groups would be thoroughly reviewed.
“I think we probably have more things in common with the positions the Friends might be pushing than they realize,” he said. “But we have not had the opportunity to sit down and talk about it across the table.”
He said, “That’s what I find most discouraging — that they have chosen to participate in this manner.”
Kimco, one of the development interests underwriting the analysis for the city, has posted tentative site plans for the retail complex it hopes to develop on Three Mile Lane. They may be viewed athttp://legacy.kimcorealty.com.
The site is currently zoned industrial. It is the final form of the Economic Opportunities Analysis, as adopted by the city, that will determine whether the land can be rezoned to commercial.