By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Planners reject agri-tourism expansion

John Abrams, Matt Dunckel and Marjorie Ehry voted in favor of expansion. Chair Daryl Garrettson, Dan Armstrong, Michael Griffith, Alan Halstead, Marla Robison and Michael Sherwood voted against. Garrettson signaled his opposition when he said, “I’m reluctant to put in an ordinance without knowing what the demand is.”

The commissioners were struck by the fact they didn’t receive a single argument, oral or written, in favor of expansion, but received plenty in opposition. “Where are all the people who said they wanted this so badly?” asked Planning Director Mike Brandt.

“The rights for people to enjoy their homes and property should count no less than the rights of property owners who want to make more money off of their acreage,” local land use activist Ilsa Perse wrote in a letter of opposition.

Friends of Yamhill County, a local land use watchdog group, also submitted a letter in opposition. It cited a greater potential for negative impacts on livability in more densely populated rural residential zones, as opposed to exclusive farm use zones, which are already covered.

The group also criticized what it termed a “complaint-driven code enforcement system.” “The county’s current complaint-driven compliance system is nearly useless,” Friends said.

Friends went on to say, “If large events are permitted in rural residential areas, serious public safety issues are much more likely to arise. We urge the adoption of a tiered schedule of the application fees tied to the number, size and type of events, with the proceeds going to fund an enforcement officer to monitor compliance. The county should also adopt a schedule of fines for violations to be further used to fund enforcement.”

Brandt took exception to the group’s enforcement characterization. He said the county has blocked some events and gone to court to stop others. 

The planning commission took up the issue at the request of the county board of commissioners. If the board opts to forge ahead anyway, the planning commission decided it will recommend changes designed to address some of the issues raised by opponents.

In other business, the commission granted a request from winemaker Edward Fus to postpone a hearing on a winery and events proposal he submitted to allow him time to meet with neighbors to address concerns.

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