City told to avoid farmland
McMinnville should preserve high-value farmland, groups say
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
The Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed a plan that would allow the City of McMinnville to expand onto surrounding farmland.
The court found that the city and the state's Land Conservation and Development Commission had misinterpreted Oregon land use laws in approving the plan.
McMinnville had planned to extend its urban growth boundary to provide for about 660 acres of new residential development, which was opposed by land conservation groups 1000 Friends of Oregon and Friends of Yamhill County.
The groups weren't opposed to any expansion of McMinnville, but they did not agree with the land included in the proposed urban growth boundary extension, said Sid Friedman, spokesperson for Friends of Yamhill County.
"There are other areas around McMinnville that have poorer soils or have rural residential development," he said, noting that such land is more appropriate for inclusion in the urban growth boundary.
Though it would have been less expensive for McMinnville's developments to spread onto flat farmland, high-quality soils need to be protected, he said.
"If we're going to continue to have a viable agricultural industry in the county and the state, these are the choices we'll have to make," he said.
Friedman said he hoped the city and LCDC will agree on another plan that preserves prime farmland and avoids "auto-dependent cookie-cutter sprawl."
"It may be cheaper over the short term, but over the long term it's penny wise and pound foolish," he said.
Ron Pomeroy, McMinnville's senior planner, said he isn't sure what action the city will take.
Attorneys and city officials still need to carefully review the complex 62-page court decision, he said.
He said the ruling did not specifically block the city from including certain lands within the urban growth boundary -- rather, the city and LCDC need to reevaluate how the planning process squares with Oregon's land use laws.
That review may produce a different urban growth boundary expansion than initially proposed, he said.
"We're really looking at the ramifications of the process right now," said Pomeroy.
In its ruling, the court acknowledged that there's "tension" between land use rules that govern urban growth boundaries.
While one of the state's land use goals is flexible in regard to the inclusion of farmland, a statute governing such boundaries is more restrictive, the court said.
In this case, the city and LCDC improperly prioritized farmland for inclusion in the boundary because infrastructure costs would be higher on other lands, the court said.
LCDC also inconsistently applied land use rules in evaluating McMinnville's expansion plan, according to the ruling.