By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Yamhill approves school projects

YAMHILL — The council unanimously upheld Wednesay a planning commission recommendation for approval of a Yamhill-Carlton School District development application, contingent on the district finding a way to meet parking and fireflow needs.

A district resident had appealed the planning commission recommendation on grounds the fire issues should be resolved before a permit is issued. That led to the scheduling of a city council hearing that ended up running 90 minutes.

One thing everyone agreed on was that the district is in dire need of building improvements.

The appellant was joined by several other citizens in urging resolution of the parking and fireflow issues be made a prerequisite. Councilors, however, felt those issues did not justify delaying work just as the spring and summer construction window is about to open.

The council engaged in about 15 minutes of discussion before reaching its unanimous decision.

“We’re not giving them a pass,” Mayor Paula Terp said of district officials. “We’re agreeing with the planning commission in saying, ‘You have to meet these two conditions.’”

The district also will need to get the city to agree on technical aspects and issue a building permit, according to City Planner John Morgan.

Supporters said a delay at this point could mean loss of some or even all of the coming construction window, which is short enough as it is.

Work is scheduled to begin as soon as students finish classes in early June. Over the next year, crews will  repair and renovate decades-old buildings and put up two round, domed ones, one serving as a career-technical center and the other as a high school gym. 

In April, Yamhill’s city planning commission recommended approval, contingent on resolution of the two outstanding issues.

State code requires at least 250 parking spaces for a gym seating 1,000, according to the district’s architect.

Chuck McCord, who filed the appeal, said it’s impossible to develop that many on the campus shared by the high school and intermediate school. He said 19 spaces along Highway 47 currently in use don’t even qualify for inclusion in the official count, as they require drivers to back out onto the highway.

Architect Deb France told the council the district would find a way to work it out. She said one possibility would be reducing the number of seats to 800, cutting the parking requirement to 200 spaces.

McCord said the required fire flow is 1,500 gallons per minute over a two-hour span. He said the district can’t meet that either.

Until engineers determine how to increase the flow, he said, the district should not be allowed to commence construction.

However, representatives of the city’s public works staff, the Yamhill Fire District and the district engineering firm all ensured that they are available. They said one possibility would be installation of a new storage tank.

Public Works Superintendent Richard Howard said, “It’s Brian’s issue,” referring to Yamhill Fire Chief Brian Jensen.

Terp said she’s heard people think the fire flow issue means the city is experiencing a water problem with broader implications. That’s not true, she said.

“I keep hearing people say there’s not enough water for the city,” the mayor said. “That’s not correct. We have enough water.”