By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Committee cool to critics, skeptics

City Planner Doug Montgomery and a state Department of Land Use Conservation and Development representative tried their best to steer them away from that idea.

“We need to divorce ourselves from the 90-acre parcel,” Montgomery told committee members. “This study is about the future of McMinnville,” he insisted.

That remark drew a rebuttal from City Councilor Kevin Jeffries, who sits on the committee. “But we also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that 90-acre parcel,” he noted.

Two people testified during the hearing, an unaffiliated resident and a member of the land use watchdog group 1000 Friends of Oregon, and neither of them met with a receptive audience.

Committee member Doug Hurl, president of McMinnville Industrial Promotions, said he was angry that 1000 Friends of Oregon was participating in the process at all.

He said McMinnville didn’t need “people from outside” submitting oral or written testimony. “We can take care of our own problems,” he said.

Montgomery countered, telling Hurl that soliciting public comments was one of the goals established as part of the process.

When city resident Steven Iversen raised concerns about a conflict of interest on the part of the consultant hired to draft the analysis, because he is being paid by the developer rather than the city, committee member Marilyn Worrix chided him. “Ah, Steve, you’ve been reading the News-Register,” she said.

Worrix said she, for one, does not believe the outcome of the process has been predetermined. She said she and other members of the committee would work to prove Iverson’s concerns unfounded.

Mia Nelson, the 1000 Friends of Oregon representative, told the committee the consultant who prepared the city analysis, Eric Hovee, provided more scenarios and options to the city of Aumsville for a 2011 economic opportunities analysis than he did to McMinnville.

She said Hovee told Aumsville that his multiple options were “consistent with the observation that economic opportunities are not pre-determined, but can be actively influenced by local choices and priorities related to creating and sustaining economic opportunity.” She said McMinnville’s draft, in contrast, “restricts choices in a way that I don’t often see.”

Nelson also questioned Hovee’s responses to earlier testimony submitted by 1000 Friends.

Hovee told the committee it would need to provide him with justification if it wanted him to change the draft to shift some of the focus from retail to industrial jobs. Nelson said, “I don’t see that done often – or ever.”

She also questioned the draft’s characterization of the Evergreen museum complex as a commercial use. Her remark was similar to a point raised previously by committee member Mark Davis.

In a memo he e-mailed to his fellow committee members before the meeting, Davis wrote:

“I respectfully disagree with Mr. Hovee that his projection of the need for two commercial lots in the 20-49 acre size range is ‘empirically grounded.’ As I pointed out, the evidence shows that only one lot of that size was utilized in the past 20 years and that was the unique Evergreen Museum complex, developed through a special urban growth boundary expansion. We certainly could speculate that one huge lot might be needed in the next 20 years, but claiming two such lots are needed is more ‘wishful thinking’ than ‘empirically grounded.’”

Committee member Phil Hutchinson, McMinnville Chamber of Commerce director, noted that the city originally harbored concerns about allowing major development along the Highway 18 Bypass for fear it might thwart the very purpose of a bypass. If the 90-acre parcel is rezoned to commercial and developed into big box stores, he asked, “Are we still concerned about the integrity of the bypass?”

Montgomery said that was a difficult issue.

“That’s a great question,” he said. “I can’t give you an answer this evening.”

All of the city’s previous plans to develop frontage roads for the bypass, Montgomery said, were based on the site being zoned industrial. If it were rezoned to commercial instead, he indicated, those plans would have to be revised.

However, he said, that task would fall under the jurisdiction of a different committee — the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Committee member Jody Christensen, who heads the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, said she had mixed feelings. She said attracting industrial companies to McMinnville is part of her job, but companies needing large tracts of industrial land don’t come along very often.

“There are very few projects that come into the state of Oregon that are big projects,” Christensen said. At most, she said, companies are looking for 20 to 30 acres.

They are interested in land in industrial areas, to avoid conflicts with neighbors and resulting city restrictions, she said.

“Any large piece of property would likely not go to one user,” she said. “It would likely go to multiple users.”

And if the site were to be developed as an industrial park, it still might generate enough traffic to raise a similar issue.

Worrix questioned Hovee about whether there is enough vacant land available to carve out parcels for both a large commercial user and a large industrial user. “There isn’t enough land for both, is there?” she asked.

Hovee said there might be, depending on the specific uses and the way the land was divided. “But you risk losing both,” Worrix responded.

The committee is scheduled to meet next at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 10, at the McMinnville Civic Hall, 200 N.E. Second St., to continue its review of Hovee’s draft.

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