By editorial board • 

Developing on floating zone likely a tough sell

Are any private developers eager to build transitional, temporary housing in McMinnville’s industrial zone? We have our doubts.

Unless city planners know something we don’t, it’s hard to imagine developers taking advantage of a floating zone as intended.

McMinnville’s Affordable Housing Task Force proposed the idea. A floating zone in the industrial area would allow a private developer, possibly in concert with a nonprofit, to design housing for people making the transition from precarious living situations and outright homelessness to permanent shelters.

The property owner would have to give his or her consent, and would retain the right to return the land to industrial use eventually. Vocational training could be incorporated into the project in hopes residents might find jobs with the nearby industries, city officials suggest.

If all this appears ambitious to the point of being impossible to envision, welcome to the club. If a developer and a project were already lined up, it might be easier to accept, but planners insist no specific projects are waiting in the wings.

The floating zone, if ultimately approved by the city council, would simply extend an invitation.

Owners of industrial property raised some valid objections at a June 27 planning commission meeting. An industrial zone may indeed not be the proper place for children, they suggested, and people shouldn’t be able to move next to a factory only to raise noise and odor objections.

It’s not impossible for a well-planned development to address such concerns. Any proposal would have to go through a land-use process in which critics’ concerns could be mediated with certain conditions. However, it will remain a tough sell for advocates of McMinnville’s industrial acreage.

The problem remains, will anyone truly want to build housing that is, by definition, temporary in nature?

Proponents are vague about how temporary a development could be. In light of such uncertainty, the invitation might be there, but what about the incentive?

The city council recently set aside $190,000 in lodging taxes to promote affordable housing. We see the same problem here — no actual proposal on the table.

However, McMinnville, like most cities in the region, suffers from an utter lack of low-rent housing. Floating zones remain a different, if not innovative, approach at some semblence of a solution to that issue.

Perhaps the community can be sold on the idea. But, would a developer buy in?  

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Meanwhile, forgive us our doubts.


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