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Jeb Bladine: Time for a war on land use tyranny?

For decades, Oregonians have worshiped at the altar of anti-sprawl and habitual protection of agricultural and forest lands. Unfortunately, that near-religious dedication caused us to ignore the laws of unintended consequences, and McMinnville — among other cities — is paying the price.

But the McMinnville City Council has an opportunity to do something bold and significant in the fractured world of Oregon land use. That opportunity begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a public work session with this simple, understated agenda: “Presentation & Discussion – Growth Planning.”

Councilors will review an eye-popping array of data and statistics gathered by Planning Director Heather Richards, but they should focus on the words. For example, Richards asked herself if the Oregon land use system is working, with these surprising answers:

“If you are concerned about accommodating growth for future generations and maintaining livability, Oregon’s metrics are not doing well and are declining rapidly. Oregon has the greatest land use system that no other state has replicated. The intent was great; the practice has failed.”

More to the point of next week’s work session: “McMinnville is now the poster child for the ‘not working’ argument.”

Oregon has 14 major land use goals intended to be balanced co-equals. However, preservation of agricultural lands turned into mindless prevention of any intrusion onto lands surrounding most cities.

Land use activists have been bolstered by poorly written state laws and unreasonable intervention by state agencies and the courts. Oregon cities have been denied necessary land expansion to accommodate population growth. Worse, today’s state lawmakers have mandated higher and higher housing density within those restricted urban growth boundaries.

“Oregon’s population will grow,” Richards says in her report. “It was never intended that the cities could not expand their urban growth boundaries to accommodate that population growth.”

The reality is far different.

Since 1981, Richards reports, McMinnville’s population has grown 120 percent, from 15,460 to 33,930, but those outside forces have restricted the city’s UGB increase to just 6 percent in that timeline. Meanwhile, local citizens suffer lack of housing, skyrocketing land and residential costs, much-increased traffic congestion, and rising citizen unease about the city’s future livability levels.

Richards readily admits she doesn’t have “The” solution. She will offer the City Council options, including seeking a legislative fix.

Therein lies the opportunity for bold action. McMinnville needs to rise up, pull other Oregon cities together in support and go to war against the continuing strangulation stemming from state land use tyranny.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Don Dix

Jeb -- the 'Time for a war on land use tyranny' was 25 years ago! The zealots and fanatics (friends of YC) were advised land and home prices would escalate and the plan would backfire, but that warning fell on deaf ears. It's important to give 'credit' where it belongs.

gregtompkins

Jeb, I am a young old timer in this area. Do you remember the fierce fighting during the Measure 37 and 49 debates? I well remember a town hall I went to in Lake Oswego that Representative Greg McPherson and all those elitist left wing wealthy people and their arrogant attitude on the ruralites who showed up at his meeting. The Portland Metro elitists have made life unbearable for all of Oregon. It’s easy for them to preserve the rural areas for their enjoyment but they’ve made it so even rural folks cannot subdivide their own lands for their own family members. And you even see hordes of bicyclists coming out to our areas just stop by the road and traipse around on private property like it’s just public park for city folks. The time has come for an SB100 / Measure 37 debate again not just force everyone to the new urbanism cult “aka Smart Growth” and density mandates. And most of the politicals that came up with these absurd policies for Oregonians are out of state politicians themselves (even Tom McCall wasn’t from here.)

Don Dix

gregtompkins --you make some good points -- however, Gov. McCall never envisioned or wished his idea and 1000 friends to to morph into a tyrannical cabal of land use nazi's.

Jeb Bladine

Don,

It's never too late, someone once said. We've argued the case all of those 25 years and more. Here's just one example, from a May 1, 2004 N-R editorial:

"McMinnville Mayor Ed Gormley, normally urbane, jettisoned his typically conciliatory character and let fly at the state Land Conservation and Development Commission hearing last week. Good for him.

"For years, the LCDC staff has been beating up on McMinnville. This latest, last-minute regurgitation of objections to the urban growth boundary proposal demonstrates an abdication of fairness and reason."

And it went on from there. And you're right, but somehow, "I told you so" doesn't quite make up for the damage!

Don Dix

Jeb -- At least there is some recognition who and what caused this situation. Appeal after appeal after appeal (to the proposed UGB expansion) not only cost the city tons of money that could have been directed elsewhere, but also created this lack of buildable land.

Supply and demand isn't/wasn't new and has always driven prices -- ignorance of the theory is just that -- ignorance!

gregtompkins

All the land in the hills is where they should be putting all the subdivisions not on the prime flatlands. But then the wineries came in and made the hills off limits. Maybe thousand friends of Oregon should change the laws to mandate new subdivisions only happen in the hills? Houses for people NOT wine could be the rallying cry !