Photo by Sandi Colvin ## Looking out over Baker Creek wetland where developer is proposing fill to create 12-15 additional homesites.
Photo by Sandi Colvin ## Looking out over Baker Creek wetland where developer is proposing fill to create 12-15 additional homesites.

Mike Colvin: Development threatens Baker Creek wetlands


Growth inevitably triggers impacts that ripple through the community.

Executed unwisely, it can significantly reduce the quality of life in older, established neighborhoods and inflict damage on important community assets and resources. That’s the concern Friends of Baker Creek has with the Oak Ridge Meadows application, which locally based Premier Home Builders has pending with the city of McMinnville.

Guest Writer

Mike Colvin, whose McMinnville roots extend back generations, serves as vice-president of Friends of Baker Creek. The nonprofit was created to protect the wetlands and flood plains on the portion of Baker Creek bordered by the Crestbrook, Compton Crest and Oak Ridge neighborhoods, which are directly affected by plans for a large-scale subdivision development. Before retiring, he owned and operated Colvin Auto. He and his wife, Sandi, have two grown children, Erin & Christopher.

The McMinnville Planning Commission has a hearing scheduled for Thursday night on the Oak Ridge application, lending urgency to the issue.

Wilsonville-based Stafford Homes and Land has planned a major subdivision for adjacent land on the north side of Baker Creek Road. When fully built out, the two northside developments would feature more than 500 dwelling units.

That is similar to the number projected for full build-out of Stafford’s Baker Creek East and West developments, currently underway on the south side of Baker Creek Road.

However, the northside properties border Baker Creek itself. Already, riparian zones have been damaged in clearing preparatory to development — something prohibited on the other side of the creek, which remains under county jurisdiction.

Much of Premier’s property is part of Baker Creek’s wetlands and floodplain area. The company proposes to fill much of the southeast section of that low lying acreage with five to eight feet of fill dirt, enabling it to build a road and squeeze in 12 to 15 more houses.

Our group has formed a committee to represent residents of the Crestbrook, Compton Crest and Oak Ridge neighborhoods in dealing with the city planning department. 

The Oak Ridge and Compton Crest neighborhoods lie adjacent to the wetlands Premier proposes to fill or dike. The lower-lying Crestbrook neighborhood abuts a downstream floodplain area which has flooded three times in just the past five years.

We support the larger, upper section of the proposed Oak Ridge Meadows subdivision, accommodating approximately 97 homes. However, we want to protect against future flooding by saving the  wetlands area, rich in bird and wildlife habitat, for a future westside nature park and foot path.

It seems obvious that diking or narrowing the upstream wetlands would create unacceptable risks of flooding in Crestbrook. There is no justification to infill precious wetlands just to include a few more houses.

Many goals and policies established in the McMinnville Comprehensive Plan address issues related to houses, parks and conservation in wetlands and floodplain areas. Part 17.48.005 sums up the situation most clearly:

“The purpose of a floodplain is to establish and regulate land uses in those areas designated as hazardous due to periodic flooding in order to protect the community from financial burdens through flood damage losses. Further, this zone is intended to protect natural floodways and drainage ways from encroachment by uses and/or indiscriminate land filling or diking, which may adversely affect the overall stream and downstream flood levels. Finally, the floodplain zone shall set aside an area which shall, for the most part, be preserved in its natural state or farmed to provide open spaces, natural habitats and recreational places.”

To be fair, the area in question is not officially listed as a floodplain by the Federal Emergency Managment Area — not yet at least. However, since this wetland and the downstream 500-year floodplain both have flooded three times in the past five years, we are asking FEMA to review and reclassify the Baker Creek drainage as floodplain as well.

The action was first suggested in 2004, but never acted on. That’s why we find ourselves in this mess today.

Ironically, increased water flow contributing to the frequency and severity of the flooding originates in part from earlier road and home construction over the past 10 years. Another factor is drain tile installed in 2018 beneath more than 600 acres of hazelnut orchards just upstream.

In recent times, even limited rainfall has triggered flooding. That makes it incumbent on the city to play an active role in investigating the overall water situation.

On appeal of a 2005 application, the city council granted approval of housing development on the affected acreage on 28 conditions. One was securing “all required state and federal permits,” including those governed by the Oregon Division of State Lands, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Premier has had 14 years to fulfill those requirements by securing the appropriate state and federal permits. To our knowledge, it has only submitted paperwork for a Division of State Lands permit for a sliver measuring 10 feet by 20 feet.

It now appears the developer is trying to keep the project moving on schedule with a much more expansive amended filing featuring 200 pages of narrative and exhibits.

Premier’s argument seems to be that city approval of such development back in 2005 sets a precedent requiring only rubber-stamping today. That ignores the fact that the permit requirements established then have not been met in the new application.

A plan amendment being sought by Premier fails to acknowledge the fact that the risk of flooding has increased greatly during the intervening 14 years. That wasn’t such an issue until westside development began routing storm drainage into Baker Creek while farm drain tiling added to the problem.

We have proposed modifications to Premier’s application designed to protect established neighborhoods and enhance the community as a whole. The decision is up to city leaders, and we are hopeful they will agree after hearing all the evidence.

We urge other citizens interested in voicing their opinions to attend the Thursday planning commission hearing, set for 6:30 p.m. in the McMinnville Civic Hall, downtown at 200 N.E. Second St.

For more information, we invite people to visit a website we created at In addition to background information, it features pictures both of recent flooding and of the bird and wildlife habitat we are trying to save, along with its resident osprey population.

We are not trying to limit or alter Premier’s main development, which is proposed for higher ground.

Our aim is protecting Crestbrook from flooding caused by the filling of wetlands to accommodate a dead-end road and additional tract of housing. We want to preserve this beautiful wetlands area for a future nature park and walkway.

When the city gets it wrong, the citizens end up paying for the mistakes.



Is the city of McMinnville so desperate for housing that they are willing to throw common sense out the window again? Why would anyone want to jeopardize established neighborhoods for a few house let alone ruin a natural flood plain? I just don’t understand where we are going in our town with some of the decisions being made right now. As far as I’m concerned this project should not even be considered as a viable housing area.


Thanks for the informative article. It is true. We are building our own disasters. A lot has happened since 2004. Just think what our grand kids will say about our gifts to them.


Jim, are right. But not many people feel responsible for the future. It's all about profit. It's a shame. Let's stand up against this.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable