By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

McMinnville's housing problems amount to a hill of beans

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I don't get it. What is 'McMinnville's housing problem'? Someone needs to enlighten me. Will people continue to move here if there are no houses available? Are there people living here who want a house but can't find one? Why is it an underlying assumption that McMinnville must continually get bigger. Where are the facts to support this? What happens if we don't build more housing? Are new businesses(jobs) coming to town or are we just going to become a bedroom community for the Portland and Salem areas? If this is State mandated, I would like to see an article outlining those requirements.

McMinnville Planning Department

Those are all good questions and unfortunately the legal mandates are often left out of the articles and discussion. By Oregon state laws, the city has to plan to accommodate the next twenty years of growth that is projected for the City of McMinnville. And the growth projections are not a choice of the City of McMinnville they are also mandated by state law. When we say that we need to plan for an additional 12,000 people by 2041, that is not a choice of the City of McMinnville it is a mandate from the state and carefully governed by state law as part of the coordinated population forecast. This is all done to ensure that population growth is happening with urban growth boundaries of cities and not on farm and forest land. The most recent forecast was issued in 2017 and forecasted population growth to plan for through 2067. It is issued by PSU as the Coordinated Population Forecast for Yamhill County. So the state is not giving us a choice of whether or not we plan to accommodate 12,000 more people in McMinnville over the next 20 years, the state is asking us "how" are we going to accommodate 12,000 more people. Are we going to change our development codes to require more housing density within our existing city limits or are we going to expand our boundaries. And what is our action plan to ensure that our "how" is going to happen - ie how are we actually changing our development codes or expanding the boundaries. Admittedly, we don't know what would happen if as a city we decided that we were not going to follow state laws and plan for the mandated growth, or we decided that we were going to plan for lesser growth - say 6,000 people instead of 12,000 people.

In terms of the questions about housing data and business data that is all part of the analysis and can be found on the city's website at on the planning page under long range planning - housing needs analysis.


Jusasking makes valid points.
Maybe you could tell the state to take their mandate and put it where the sun don't shine.


McMinnville Planning...did I understand you correctly....they just want to know if you have a plan, not mandating that the city will have more housing?


first of all thank you MPD for explaining. That took a lot of "steam"out of the breakfast discussion I had with my wife about the MPD because we both are strongly opposing the inflationary building of houses and apartments here. We were asking the same questions like 'jusasking'. If 'fatherofthree' is correct why are we not 'Lulus' solution ? Maybe in a more polite way ?


According to the article: "Richards told commissioners and councilors that McMinnville has only about 545 acres of buildable land in its urban growth boundary — only 180 acres of which could be developed in the near future."

I really wish there was some more reporting here about that. I know there can be a lot of reasons why any particular parcel that might be subject to new residential development or redevelopment could be constrained. But it would be helpful to understand first, what assumptions are being made by the committee and its consultant which result in this reduction from 545 acres to only 180 acre? And also what assumptions are being made about existing parcels capable of more intensive residential development?
Perhaps some of those assumptions are relevant to public awareness and input. Citizens might be interested in considering alternatives that change the basis of those assumptions and remove some of those constraints.


Even if the State did not require long range planning for population growth, I would want the city and county would do long range planning. Just is common sense. Just as a family is in trouble if they do not plan for the future, a city needs to have ideas of dealing with the future.


Densify 1st and 2nd build skyscrapers there and turn all three downtown streets into one ways. And have a trolley going up to hill street. Add a few more layers on top of the parking garage. Don increase the UGB live within the current boundaries. Californians are used to dense living. And take out all the trailer parks and put 4-5 storey complexes in their place.

McMinnville Planning Department

We are going to try and answer people's questions as they come . . . For father_of_three - yes we have to submit a plan to the state, but we also have to submit an action plan that demonstrates how we are going to meet our future housing need. If, for instance, as a community we decide that we will be absorbing growth by building up and not out, than the state will want to see us change our development codes that only allow development that is higher density housing and not allow any lower density development - this is part of our submittals to the state. In terms of LuLu's suggestion, well ....(if we had a dollar for every time that we thought that as well - smiles!). We don't know what the state would do if we just chose to do nothing. The reality is growth will occur in McMinnville - we can either get in front of it so that it occurs the way we want it to or .... it will just happen driven by the market. Land will get more and more expensive and we suspect we will lose more affordable homes that will be displaced by expensive homes.

McMinnville Planning Department

Responding to TreeHouse, the article condensed 1 1/2 hours of dialogue into a short article so some of the data is out of context. There are 661 acres of "buildable" land in McMinnville's UGB. Of that 661 acres much of it is not in a readily developable position - it is already being used for a specific use in the county or doe not have critical infrastructure. Approximately 285 acres are rural residential homes in the county that do not want to annex into the city and develop - (and as they say in their lifetime), another 81 acres are waiting for a $8,000,000 water infrastructure project that is not funded, another 75+ are underway with development right now, and 43 are on partially vacant lots. The analysis and data can be found in the 2019 Housing Needs Analysis that is posted on the city's website at on the planning page under long range planning - housing needs analysis. Hope that helps.


My question to the planning department is how are you going to bring all these homes and people into McMinnville with the road system we have now? I’d say till you have an adequate road system to handle the extra traffic there is not much use of more houses or more land in the UGB. Are Main arterial roads are at the maximum at peak traffic hours now. We don’t have Beaverton or Hillsboro’s population but our roads look like it.


At some point, Amity will become the next McMinnville.


Huge thanks to McMinnville Planning Department for engaging on this. It really helps to clear up confusion and allay misunderstanding in the community.

I'd also be keen to know to what extent, if any, HB 2001 was taken into effect in this current analysis. With that law going into effect in 2020 I'm curious if any analysis is available showing how its impacts developing or redeveloping single family residential lots into higher intensity uses would affect the projections.


@Jim, you brought up a good point about the roads, I grew up in the rural part of this county and have now lived in Newberg twice and Mac one. And I also lived in Beaverton and Portland before coming “back.” This county nowadays reminds me of Beaverton and Hillsboro in the late 90’s. I don’t think the planners of either Newberg or McMinnville are willing to admit we are the next frontier of the Portland sprawl. We will be Beaverton in no time.

Jeb Bladine

There may be some misunderstanding about urban sprawl, which is tightly controlled in Oregon under evolution of 1973's SB 100. When talk turns to resulting high-density development and roadway congestion, people sometimes think a tad bit more sprawl may be OK.

The latest land use bill effectively bans exclusive single-family housing zones in our larger cities -- another example of government mandated high density development. But as Heather Richards points out, the greater mandate for high density comes from state requirements to plan for estimated future population growth while being prevented from expanding urban growth boundaries.

So, it seems more likely we will have higher density in McMinnville than that we will sprawl over the countryside like Beaverton.

Roadway congestion is a related results. McMinnville's street system, despite major improvements from the latest bond issue, is barely adequate today with high density development, high visitor counts and lots of drive-through. Many years ago McMinnville failed to fight for "ring-road" systems that clearly were going to be needed in the future -- that future is here, but another one is coming.


Jeb, that law does little to actually stop sprawl. Just go take a drive up to Roy Rodgers Road to see some sprawl. We are headed to fuse with that mess in the next few years.

Jeb Bladine

You are correct that the law doesn't stop sprawl. It slows sprawl.

It's slower in self-contained cities such as McMinnville with plenty of surrounding space outside urban growth boundaries, combined with strict controls on expanding the UGB. Even there, when population growth estimates spiral, there can be major pressure to expand the UGB. In McMinnville right now, it appears the city is more tuned to increased density than to seeking major UGB expansion.

In metro areas, population growth caused continuing expansions in the UGB's of various cities in relatively close proximity. A recent expansion of 2,200 acres, for example, exppanded UGBs from Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville. Then the UGBs of metro-area cities expand, development sprawls toward each other, which has happened over the years particularly with Beaverton and Hillsboro.

McMinnville Planning Department

In response to Jim - yes, infrastructure is going to be a difficult issue to overcome for higher density development within the UGB - transportation, wastewater and water. We will need to update our public facility plans to accommodate it. For wastewater and water it typically is a matter of increasing the size of the infrastructure network (pipes in the ground) and the treatment facility. Our wastewater facility is planned to accommodate more growth, however there are several sections of the city where the pipe network in the ground is at maximum capacity and we will need to increase the sizes of those pipes. That is fairly easy to do in the grand scheme - but it will take significant funds. Transportation is much more difficult as the fix is usually a larger street network which means additional real estate is needed and in a built environment that is very difficult to achieve so typically the community starts to talk about living with increased congestion and improving the bicycle, pedestrian and transit networks. This will need to be part of the community dialogue.

McMinnville Planning Department

In response to Treehouse regarding HB2001 - although it had not passed yet when the committee was going through their analysis we anticipated that it would and it has been taken into account. The Housing Strategy identifies the need to amend the zoning ordinance to allow duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in all of the single family residential zones. In fact, the recommendation is to just create two residential zones - one that allows singles, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes and one that is high density that does not allow single family or duplexes. However, interestingly HB2001 also limited how much density redevelopment that a city can assume in terms of this new state mandate so that cities are not overinflating their ability to accommodate growth in their existing built out neighborhoods.

Needless to say both HB2001 and the proposed draft Housing Strategy that the city is reviewing will put a significant amount of pressure on existing public infrastructure - roads, sewer, water, schools, etc. We are planning to incorporate that analysis into our growth analysis over the next year so that we can understand it better.


@Jeb, you’re a lifer in this area you’ve seen the changes! They’re even expanding Newberg and Dundee and McMinnville even is now just a suburb of Portland. I bring up Hillsboro and Beaverton repeatedly but the same patterns are emerging in our area now, too. We just need an Intel or some other kind of huge factory to now employ the newcomers.

McMinnville Planning Department

And to clarify a misunderstanding about the Oregon Land Use system and the expansion of UGBs, there is nothing in state law that prevents cities from expanding their UGBs. In fact it is encouraged if they cannot realistically accommodate their projected growth within the existing UGB. Presumably Oregonians would prefer to see growth occur in cities because it can be supported at much higher density than on rural lands in terms of public amenities and infrastructure, and thus preserves forest and farm land from sprawl. Sprawl is typically defined as, "spread out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way", it does not mean no expansion of city boundaries at any cost. The Oregon Land Use system is set up to encourage cities to have thoughtful and meaningful discussions about how to accommodate future growth so that it is well planned, cost effective and still retains a quality of life for the city's inhabitants. There are minimum thresholds of decision-making that need to be achieved in the Oregon land use system, but then it is all about local decision making based upon local values (in terms of "how" to grow and not "whether or not" to grow - that is unfortunately not a local choice). That is why McMinnville needs to have this community dialogue. Planning is all about balance.

Jeb Bladine

McMinnville Planning Department,

It wasn't intended to say that state law prevents expansion of UGBs. To the contrary, recent examples of UGB expansions were cited. The prevention cited comes from all the protests and appeals and regulatory responses from the state and courts when cities try to enlarge UGBs.

But those laws and policies and regulations, combined with appeals processes, LCDC and LUBA rulings and court decisions, can make it seem almost impossible. McMinnville has gone through epic UGB battles seeking expansion, one lasting 17 years. There were citizens and private organization challenges, LUBA rulings, remands for more action, more rulings, Court of Appeals rulings.

You seem to suggest that we merely need to request an expansion based on thinking that it's needed for our projected growth. Perhaps there are new laws/policies in place that make it that much easier for a city to expand its UGB as an alternative to high-density development. If that's the case, there will be a lot of interest.


McMinnville Planning Department your comment about just putting up with congestion seems a little weak. Seems to me if I build a milking parlor for 300 cows and own 500 I didn’t do a very good job of planning. It kinda looks like you folks over the last 25 years have planned for a 300 cow dairy and you’re trying to milk 1,000 now. My way of thinking is you need to fix the roads and congestion before you permit one more house. People that have lived here for 50 years don’t need to be told to just live with congestion when people getting paid good money didn’t plan very well.


It’s really too bad we hadn’t kept measure 37. And it also seems the only ones crowing about “land use” the most aren’t even from here. I heard that from one of the leftists at climate coffee. He was extolling how wonderful Oregon land use was and then I learned in our conversation he had recently moved here from another state. That, along with the fact we were drinking coffee from the other hemisphere. Classic NIMBY liberal hypocrisy I thought.

McMinnville Planning Department

Jeb, no one is suggesting that the process is easy. However, the alternative to just stop planning and trying to accommodate growth is not allowed either. And to throw up our hands and say we cannot expand the UGB as it is too difficult to navigate a galvanized opposition in the legal system is also not the best planning. We are suggesting that McMinnville has the opportunity to have the dialogue about how it will grow - up or out - and that as a community we should have that dialogue. Fear of a long drawn out legal challenge should not be the basis of decision-making for what is the best future for McMinnville. Somehow we need to figure out how to move forward in a productive manner that will serve our current and future residents, and meet the legal tests of the Oregon Land Use system. We have found that many people in McMinnville and Yamhill County believe that cities are legally not allowed to expand their UGBs, which we are trying to point out is actually not true. The checks and balances in the state laws is to ensure that growth discussions are conducted with a mind towards protecting and preserving farm and forest land by mandating that the majority of growth happens in the cities. Ironically per the PSU Coordinated Population Forecast, in recent years, there has been more population growth occurring in the unincorporated county lands than in the county's principal city - McMinnville.

Jim, your analogy is spot on. Oftentimes it feels like navigating the legal rules of the Oregon Land Use System is more like playing a board game of Monopoly rather than an analysis based in reality. Our public facility plans are based upon twenty years of growth. It is a system that navigates towards future failure if the intention is that cities will continue to densify within their current boundaries. With that type of reasoning, our infrastructure will always be undersized for the future. It is the bogey in the room.


McMinnville Planning Department
Maybe it’s time for small cities to stand up to Government over reach. If you can’t expand into more property to build on because of state laws and on the flip side state law mandates you grow a certain amount you at some point have to stand and fight. At this point the only entity that seems to be making any headway is lawyers lining their pockets. McMinnville for some reason seems to be afraid of law suits in every move they make. It’s time to stand for private citizens rights instead of a laughable state government that seems to be trying to turn our beautiful state into another California.

Sandi Colvin

Jim - I'm in your camp other than who is the only winner in our UBG wars. It's not just lawyers, it's developers. What a dream for them - rules and regulations so slanted in their favor that there's virtually no way to lose on any proposal they submit. That's not on the state, that's on McMinnville's planning system and creating those rules and regs that have no bearing on livability in existing neighborhoods or sensitive environmental areas.

MPD doesn't know what the state would do if they didn't follow through on their 20 year plans? Let's find out! Stop with the density at any cost nonsense. Put the regs back to where common sense can make an appearance when there are questionable lands involved in a development proposal. Start using other's lessons learned (Portland's Johnson Creek fiasco) before having to learn those same lessons the hard way here.

" “These are true emotions because lifestyles are changing as they know it, and there’s a fear of that change,” she said."

Maybe the MPD should stop to think that maybe the fear isn't of change, but rather the planning director's version of it.


Sandi everything you stated is right on the money. The Planning Departments vision obviously isn’t on track with a lot of folks in town. The city says they want citizens input but in your neighborhood debacle they just hid behind the city attorney and didn’t listen to people with common sense and something to lose. I hope this next generation figures out what’s going to make this country continue on being the greatest country on earth. Right now I know they don’t get it.


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