Jeb Bladine: Questions extending the TML Plan debate

One lesson from the debate about Three Mile Lane developments: Generational-impact initiatives needing multi-focused community input should not be formulated during a pandemic.

A stimulating public hearing on Tuesday raised important questions for decision-makers before they vote on the Three Mile Lane Area Plan (TML Plan):

n Does the 2022 TML Plan adequately adhere to the 1996 McMinnville Corridor Refinement Plan? Does the Oregon Department of Transportation understand and approve all variances between those plans that could impact long-term functionality of this “Highway of Statewide Significance?”

In 1996, ODOT’s objective was to provide “safe and efficient high-speed continuous-flow operation in rural areas, and high to moderate speed operations with limited interruptions of flow in urban and urbanizing areas.”

McMinnville decision-makers should read the 1996 plan and ask those questions.

n Is the 2022 TML Plan “what McMinnville citizens want,” based on public input from 2018-19?

I joined at least one of those public input sessions, and many similar sessions on other important local issues. Sometimes they create clarity about public desires; sometimes they produce insufficient evidence to support broad plans that follow.

Today’s City Council can’t just say “the people have spoken.” It’s their decision now.

n Does McMinnville want and need a major shopping mall along TML?

Planners say the TML Plan only promotes “33 net acres” of commercial development, and there are aspirational plans for the kind of community-friendly development that might ensue.

Opponents cite three active applications to rezone almost 70 contiguous acres for commercial development. They say aspirational plans lack authority to mold developments, and that the largest and most likely developer has a nationwide record of big-box malls that don’t fit the look of TML Plan drawings.

Business interests cite “retail slippage” when people leave town to shop elsewhere; others believe that retail slippage to national chain stores will be just as real even if the stores are closer to home.

n Will development of the TML Plan compete for funds needed for buildout of the regional bypass? Will perceptions of future traffic congestion on TML cause state and/or federal funders to hesitate on providing full bypass funding?

Those questions are above my pay grade, but they will be discussed next week when city and state officials meet with the Yamhill County Parkway Committee.

The 2022 TML Plan is well-intended, highly documented, professionally prepared and responsive to some legitimate local interests. But all that doesn’t make it the answer to a simple but complicated question: “What does McMinnville want?”

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


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