By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: TML talks focus on commercial, traffic

Editorial commentary today summarizes a topic — Three Mile Lane development — that spans a half century of public planning and private development, and has generated an encyclopedia-size body of information.

Next week’s public hearing may be the last opportunity to impact a new TML Area Plan before McMinnville City Council acts on it.

All agree that TML is an essential area for McMinnville’s future growth. But there are questions about the size and nature of new commercial development; resulting impact on traffic flow; and potential for changes to create a dampening effect on funding for the extended Highway 18 corridor.

Some city officials have backed away from suggestions of big-box retail on TML, now preferring “mixed-use town center.” Others strongly support Target, Costco and the like for that area. Some reports say it’s just about 40 acres, while the Area Plan itself includes these passages:

“The defining characteristics south of the highway include a large (40 - 60-acres) area envisioned as a future retail center ... This almost 60-acre parcel is one of the largest regional sites with easy highway access ... The predominant change  (for a Comprehensive Plan map amendment) is from an Industrial designation to a Commercial designation for approximately 40-60 acres south of OR 18.”

As this unfolds, the city has three pending zone change applications that would change 70 acres of Highway 18 frontage from industrial to commercial. Forty of those acres are owned by one of America’s largest shopping center developers.

Some people would love a regional big-box center on TM. For me, not so much. I think it would do more harm than good to the local economy and impact future Highway 18 bypass status.

The long-working Parkway Committee has discussed whether this TML Area Plan might create questions among state and federal politicians and highway officials about long-term bypass integrity. That wouldn’t help an effort competing for hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal funds, but that group hesitates to get involved with McMinnville land use development.

The city has taken a strong advocacy position for approval of the Area Plan, citing a broad array of citizen and technical input over years of planning. Having that timeline overlap a multi-year pandemic might be considered reason to ask if the public was fully aware of the diverse issues.

As today’s editorial concludes, “If you have strong feelings on … issues raised by the city’s new Three Mile Lane Area Plan, now’s the time to be heard.”

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register. He can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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