Commissioners can't seem to see the forest for the trees

Here we go again.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the two county commissioners who think they know more about everything than everyone else were ignoring the thoughtful, impartial advice of medical and public health professionals. Now they are ignoring the thoughtful, impartial advice of planning and transportation professionals.

We’re referring, of course, to Mary Starrett and Lindsay Berschauer.

Berschauer began her service two years ago by publicly berating county staff professionals for service rendered on behalf of predecessors, so the continued stream of staff disdain comes as no surprise. It does come as a profound disappointment, though.

The public health brouhaha was over language that’s been routinely incorporated into state contracts with Oregon’s 36 county health departments year after year, including Yamhill’s. It merely expresses support for life- and health-saving vaccinations, most of which are aimed at polio, diphtheria and other dangerous childhood diseases.

The latest uproar is over public roads that have historically been allowed in 14 county zones under terms voided four years ago by the Oregon Court of Appeals. Only one zone was at issue in the ruling, but the same language is used in all 14, so the county will never be able to authorize a new piece of public road again unless it is changed.

Unfortunately, this is not just a theoretical issue, as it stands to thwart completion of the Wynooski interchange as work continues on the next phase of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass. That’s because the long-planned interchange would overlap three affected county zones.

So what’s the rub? The court ruling was made in a case brought in connection to the since dead-and-buried Yamhelas Westsider Trail, and the trail remains a lasting stigma for commissioners who ran their campaigns on never-say-die trail opposition.

Yes, really. That’s it.

Much hue and cry was made about property rights. But as Kathryn Jernstedt of Friends of Yamhill County cogently noted, “Property rights are a double-edged sword. It means you can do what you want with your property, but the guy next door can (also) do what they want.”

Commissioner Casey Kulla mused, “This is really interesting to me, because I’m hearing a lot of concern about protecting landowners, and as I understand it, this is really a proposal that will allow landowners to do things that our planners have already let them do, up until 2018.”

He added, “We should be clear about that as a board then, that we don’t want people to be able to build roads, including our own Public Works Department.”

In truth, this is all much ado about nothing. It’s just more pandering and posturing.

The easiest fix would simply be to modify existing language to restore landowners’ historic roadbuilding rights in all 14 zones. But to salve concerns, Planning Director Ken Friday offered a compromise making roadbuilding an outright use in three zones and a conditional use in the rest, subject to a hearing process on a case-by-case basis.

Please strike a note for property rights, commissioners. Restore them in the 14 zones where they have been overturned by the courts.



To get my mind wrapped around this. The 'Friends of Yamhill County, whom I have loathed from afar for years (and you will partially understand with my take on this situation), consider my property rights as a citizen and home owner of Yamhill County, and as a tax payer of Yamhill County, my property rights are one of the edges of a double edge sword. My home owning, tax paying neighbor, being no better because they are the other edge of that double edge sword.

It is always good to know that our betters are circling and ready to offer a quote up to the NR. Did you have to call them or were they over for cocktails? Anyway, thank God the election is over, we didn't have to hear two paragraphs on Beth Wytoski's input what she might have done in Dayton on the matter.


The Friends of Yamhill County rep was quoted from the same public meeting the commissioners were quoted from. No cocktails involved, just public testimony provided in a public setting. Transparency in action.

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