Jernstedt & Biddle: Weigh UGB option in spirit of Oregon land-use tradition


McMinnville is engaged in much-needed long-range planning, which will likely lead to an urban growth boundary expansion. We can expect that to spark debates over whether, how and where the city should grow.

Guest Writer

Kathryn Jernstedt, currently serving as president of Friends of Yamhill County, grew up on the Jernstedt Century Farm. It was staked out east of Carlton in 1891. Like many of her generation, she left to pursue career opportunities, working as a shipyard welder, then as a safety professional for public and private employers. Now back on the farm, she is busy restoring a 100-year-old house.

Large-scale developments proposed or underway near Hill and Baker Creek roads have already prompted discussion over the effects of growth on neighborhood cohesion and livability.

Unfortunately, recent articles and opinion pieces in the News-Register have raised the temperature near the boiling point. Friends of Yamhill County, 1000 Friends of Oregon, the city’s planning director and the newspaper’s editors have all been hailed by some and vilified by others. It’s time to take a deep breath, step back and talk to each other rather than past each other.

Of course, there are policy differences between various members of the community. That doesn’t mean we wage war on each other or the state of Oregon, as some have irresponsibly urged. Honest dialogue produces better outcomes than entrenched us vs. them confrontation.

Guest Writer

Alexis Biddle serves as urban lands advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon, the local’s parent association. Founded by Gov. Tom McCall, 1000 Friends is a non-profit dedicated to ensuring our land use system protects working lands and creates more livable communities in both urban and rural areas. He brings to his work a law degree and master’s degree in planning from the University of Oregon.

Here are some basic facts and premises that we hope we all can agree on: 1) McMinnville will almost certainly need to expand its urban growth boundary. 2) That expansion will almost certainly need to include both agricultural and rural residential lands.

Contrary to what some have asserted, Friends of Yamhill County and 1000 Friends of Oregon have never demanded the total exclusion of farmland in a McMinnville UGB expansion.

In fact, 2009 mediation resulted in a tentative agreement to include about 350 buildable acres of high-value farmland, along with 27 buildable acres of rural residential land. However, this was rejected by the city council.

According to McMinnville’s recently completed Housing Needs Analysis, 33% of new residential construction should be multi-family in order to provide housing at price points current and future residents can afford. 

McMinnville still has 303 acres of buildable residential land within its city limits. However, 91% of it is zoned single-family.  

The city also has hundreds of acres of additional buildable land lying within its existing urban growth boundary. That land still carries county zoning, but is available for residential development.

To meet the needs of those who are and will be living and working in McMinnville, we should re-zone some of this acreage for multi-family use. The city should plan to use the land it already has to better align with the housing needs it has identified in its own analysis.

The city’s City Center Housing Strategy draft would add more housing downtown, which we support. We need to do more to ensure each neighborhood in our community offers housing choices for all.

The cost of land is just one of many factors affecting what families can afford. Income is even more important.

According to the city’s own studies, the tourism-related jobs that the city targets in its Economic Development Strategy paid an average yearly salary of about $18,600 in 2017. In contrast, agricultural jobs in McMinnville average more than $31,000. And manufacturing jobs, including hundreds in the food and beverage industry that depend on agriculture, average $49,700.

The city’s Economic Opportunities Analysis draft indicates the lowest wages were in retail trade and leisure activities, which include arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services. Hundreds of higher-paying jobs depend on productive farmland nearby, so we should not be paving it over for lower-paying jobs.

Expanding our urban footprint to a greater extent than necessary increases our infrastructure costs and erodes the economic base supporting the development we need to accommodate families of all incomes.

Commercial farmland is not undeveloped land waiting for urbanization. It is already developed industrial land that supports the key driver of our local economy — agriculture.

According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, 2017 farm sales topped $314 million, up 12% since 2012. A 2019 report from the Oregon Employment Department found agriculture is the largest traded sector in the region encompassing Yamhill, Polk and Marion counties.

Agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing account for 13 percent of all the private sector jobs in the three counties.

In Yamhill County, employment concentration is 19 times the national average in crop production, 21 times in beverage manufacturing and nearly twice the national average in food manufacturing. And the wage numbers show these are good-paying jobs. 

Land price is only one factor in the overall cost of development. It costs far more to run new infrastructure to areas beyond the fringe of town than it does to reinvest in existing neighborhoods where infrastructure is already in place.

Urbanizing flat farmland at the edge town will not magically solve our housing affordability problem.

Some land already in the UGB is currently going undeveloped for lack of services. And the maximum safe capacity of roadways has been cited as a reason to reduce density in new development.

In a sustainably funded comprehensive plan, adequate systems development charges are applied to new construction to help fund the sewers, roads and parks they demand. However, SDCs do not pay for maintenance for those services, nor for increased demand on fire, police and schools.

Mile by mile and foot for foot, taxpayers and ratepayers will spend more maintaining our infrastructure if we do not manage our growth carefully.

Focusing our growth on the fringe of town will add to our greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the distance folks need to travel to meet their daily needs. More affordable housing options can be deveoped in existing neighborhoods, and with a smaller carbon footprint, by reducing the use of energy for heating, cooling and commuting.

There are good reasons for farmland being the last resort for urban expansion under state land use laws. Urbanizing farmland is sometimes necessary, but we shouldn’t pretend it carries no economic or environmental cost. We should do our best to minimize it.

We have an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive discussion of the many factors that go into planning and funding for growth, not just Oregon land use law.

Developers and affordable housing advocates alike can speak to the impact of SDCs and permits on the cost of the end product. Utility and public service providers are routinely confronted with the tension of funding expansion as well as repair and maintenance. And real estate brokers see regional and national demographic trends moving away from large, freestanding single-family houses.

Friends of Yamhill County and 1000 Friends of Oregon stand ready and willing to engage in discussion. The aim should be to move this process forward in keeping with the letter and spirit of Oregon’s tradition of land use and conservation.


Don Dix

From the article -- "Friends of Yamhill County and 1000 Friends of Oregon stand ready and willing to engage in discussion.'

For 25 years (and counting), the same word dominates any discussion of expansion -- NO! What are the odds of that suddenly changing? Slim and none -- and Slim left town!

McMinnville Planning Department

For the past year the City of McMinnville has been engaged in a growth planning analysis as required by state law. To aide city staff in this analysis, the city established a Project Advisory Committee to work with staff on this effort. The Project Advisory Committee is comprised of community members and special interest groups, including representatives of the Friends of Yamhill County. They have been meeting regularly over the past year. In fact, City Council made a deliberate and intentional decision to include representatives of Friends of Yamhill County on this committee so that they would be at the table from the beginning for this growth planning analysis and participating in the dialogue and decision-making.

The City needs to provide a study to the state evaluating how much housing is needed to accommodate a state prescribed population growth over the next twenty years, and how many jobs, parks, public facilities are needed to ensure that this future population enjoys a quality of life as defined by the community. Then the city needs to decide if there is enough land within the city's UGB to support this growth or whether it needs to expand its UGB.

The Project Advisory Committee is assisting staff with every step of this analysis and decision-making, leading to a study and plan that will then be reviewed by the community and City Council. Once the analysis and evaluation is complete, it will be shared with the community for feedback, comments and concerns.

Per City Council direction, city planning staff is committed to a transparent, equitable and inclusive dialogue regarding growth planning for the City of McMinnville in such a way that everyone who wants to participate can do so in a in a meaningful and informed manner. If anyone wants to learn more about the process, the dialogue, the draft documents or how to get involved, please contact the Planning Department at 503-434-7311, any City Council member or the City Manager.


McMinnville Planning Department I hope that there is major discussion in all your meeting is about the infrastructure that goes with expansion. So far I haven’t been very impressed with the the money spent on Alpine Avenue or Hill Road. If you don’t figure out a major route around town you are wasting your time on expanding. You need to wisely spend bond money and taxpayer revenues or you won’t have anymore money for your projects. I’m tired of waiting for lights to change three times before I can go anywhere. I don’t live in Beaverton for a reason and that’s what you are trying to do here with no way to move traffic through town.

McMinnville Planning Department

RESPONSE TO JIM: Yes Jim, we will need to update the City of McMinnville's Transportation System Plan as part of the growth planning. We do not have a timeframe scheduled for it yet, probably not earlier than Summer 2021 - we still need to figure out how much and where the city plans to grow to plan the transportation system to support it. However we will be setting up a Project Advisory Committee to help us with that work as well, and would love to have you or anyone else who is interested participate. When we set up these Project Advisory Committees we send out a call for volunteers and provide an application process. Keep your eyes open for that.

In the meantime, our current Transportation System Plan that was adopted in 2010 is designed to accommodate full build-out of the city's existing UGB, based upon decisions that the community made when putting our existing Transportation System Plan together. Usually those types of decisions come down to a balancing act of costs of transportation infrastructure, timeframe for implementing improvements and the community's willingness to live with congestion. The decisions are not easy, but the volunteers who do participate in these discussions are very valuable as they are representing the community (both current and future residents) and how people will be impacted by the city's transportation system.

We would love to have you join us in that discussion and decision-making when the time comes.


MPD thanks for the response. I would help with thoughts and ideas on designing a better infrastructure to move traffic through and around our town. I’ve lived here since 1970 so I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in planning in this town. I will say that my luck with going to public meeting has not been enjoyable. The things I have been involved with whether it be the school district, the city council or at the county level have been decided before I and the rest of the general public ever showed up. Hopefully you folks have open minds when you ask for public input. Money is always a factor and if government officials spent it more efficiently that same money would be easier to obtain. If you want truly want public input you and the public need to do this with open minds. I will look to attend your planning meeting.

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