By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Staff presents planning, building fee increases to council

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More taxes and fees. This is part of the reason rent and housing cost are so high. Landscape review for only $801.35! I have sat in on one of these reviews and this is insane.


I agree.


Wow. Big increases. I wonder what the NR editorial board thinks about this?


Why in the heck do you hire a California company to tell the City of McMinnville which is in Oregon how to run their town? I don’t want to be like California and we need to send half of them living in our state back down there. If they don’t like California why are they trying to make this state just like it? This lady that is running the planning department wants us to be another Bend Oregon and I’m sorry but we can’t pack Bend’s wallet to the bank. She will run builders and businesses off with all her taxes and fancy pants ideas.


Do not worry. As always this money will be spent wisely. Most all of the main streets with lots of potholes and most of the side streets with smooth surfaces. And by the way ...the californian way has already started. More cutting trees, more wineries, more tasting rooms, higher prices for everything. And what are w e the citizen of Mac getting ? Oh, I forgot...a street sign...thank you voters.


These reviews are quasi judicial processes that require far more than just a public meeting you may sit in on. Technical experts have to carefully review often hundreds of individual application elements against the city code and provide a carefully documented fact finding for the record. This city is in fact incredibly lucky to have the planning staff we have.

Don Dix

From the article -- "The last time such a study was done was in 2002, Richards said."

If memory serves correctly, at that time (2002), the city raised building permits and fees 70% (with the promise of reduction if those increases were too much). After 18(?) months, a 10% reduction was implemented, effectively making the original raise 63%.

During those months after the increase, the building dept. had collected a surplus of approx. $250K, which was 'promised' to be a fund to offset any need for future increases (the officials stated it would be a builders fund, belonging to the builders).

During testimony to the city council, the council was warned that any money in the public trough would not be safe from whomever (in the city government) felt the need for extra money.

And that 'warning' came true. The city arbitrarily used the specifically designated fund to purchase the OMI building without any agreement from the declared owners of that fund (builders).

This purchase was said to be necessary to accommodate the growing building dept., even though the 10,000 sq. ft. building was 3 times larger than department's stated need.

I'm convinced the OMI purchase was a scheme that was in the works 'before' the raises in 2002. I have no proof, but the fact that every conversation with city officials afterward became a deflection rather than any sort of valid explanation.

The moral to this story is thus -- when a public entity raises a fee or fees dramatically, citing rising costs, there is usually some 'hidden agenda' that is only privy to those at the top. And the surprise (read spending the excess) comes at some future time, hoping the excessive raises, which seemed shockingly large, are forgotten.

Sal Peralta

It's a pretty straightforward question: Should local taxpayers continue to underwrite these costs of doing business for developers, knowing that doing so essentially means that we will not have the resources to engage in the long-range planning needed to ensure that McMinnville remains liveable community.

Don, you know better than anyone in this forum the impact of PERS on government budgets. 1 dollar out of every 5 spent on payroll for every government unit in the state. You also know that because of SB100 and Measures 5 and 50, we are limited to 3% increase in revenue plus however many houses we grow in a given year.

So, the question is, given the budget constraints that the city is operating under, should city taxpayers continue underwriting these costs of doing business for developers as a core function of government?

Put another way: How do you or I benefit as McMinnville taxpayers or residents by underwriting permitting costs of someone elses new home? Since the cost of underwriting those expenses comes from the general fund, how do you weigh them compared with other priorities that the general fund might pay for -- additional staffing for fire or police -- for example.

Don Dix

Sal -- You may be correct, and the large fee increases may be necessary. But from my perspective, there is no better education than 'experience', and the last 'experience' of this nature was undoubtedly a betrayal of the promises made. Kinda' causes one to carry a little skepticism, wouldn't you say?

Jeb Bladine

Some people spend a lot of time in city parks; some people start fires through carelessness; some people drive heavy vehicles on city streets and park regularly along curbsides; some people use the library weekly; some people go the municipal pool constantly; some people have children and grandchildren in public schools.

Other people don't do any of those things, but they pay taxes used for others to enjoy the benefit of those public services.

Some people build houses, renovate an old building, develop new commercial facilities, ask for land use variances to allow difficult uses of property, etc.

Should all users of public services pay the full direct cost of those services? What, exactly, is it about building code and planning services that puts them in the full user-pay category? People understand, I assume, that the costs of planning and construction are passed down -- with markups -- to the end users, be they homeowners, small business owners, renters of houses or office space, etc.

Did this project first analyze how to reduce all of these costs, then think about what to charge? It would be interesting to read a clear, concise explanation of why it costs so much to review a landscaping plan, and why the applicant who is doing government-mandated beautification should also be required to such high review costs.

It's a complex set of overlapping issues to decide user-fees for public services. It's interesting how those fees are skyrocketing at many levels of government because taxpayers have balked at paying more for programs that have run amok due to actions by those same governmental bodies.


Anyone who has witnessed the planning department in action, especially when it comes to presenting a development to the commission or council for approval, cannot deny that the planning staff are worth every cent and more. I have no doubt that several of the more recent and somewhat tricky subdivisions have been approved by the commission and council because of the work of the planning department. If developers are not willing to pay for that high level of service, they should go build in a less desirable location.

Also, like Sal said, why should the citizens of McMinnville pick up the tab for the developers? Why should we bankroll their ambitions? I would always prefer service fees over taxes anyways.

Don Dix

Jeb brings up an interesting point -- the government requires that a percentage of the total area of a project must be landscaped, and approved by the planning dept. But the cost of that review is subject to whatever is decided, and not necessarily the real cost (without explanation).

If one has noticed, raising taxes has become politically risky, but raises in fees sometimes go unnoticed -- it all ends up in government hands, just through a less obvious delivery system.

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