New McMinnville Economic Analysis Revisions Raise More Concerns

After a consultant paid by a shopping center developer made revisions to a draft Economic Oportunities Analysis in McMinnville--revisions that more forcefully stated a "need" for a new regional shopping center--a member of the city's Advisory Committee is crying foul.

1000 Friends, Friends of Yamhill County, and other local groups are raising concerns about the study, which is intended to identify areas for potential employment and retail development. One major red flag is the fact that the new study is being funded by a shopping center developer that also happens to own industrially-zoned land in south McMinnville--land that the new study targets for rezoning as a commercial shopping center. Learn more about this issue here.


View McMinnville EOA big box proposal in a larger map

The rezoning is raising eyebrows both because of the potential for a conflict of interest, and because the parcel in question is among the best situated in the Willamette Valley for new industrial development: close to an airport and bypass highway, a large lot under single ownership, and with access to local services. We question whether trading family-wage industrial jobs for more big-box retail sprawl is really in the best interest of McMinnville residents and the region. 

Now the issue of a conflict of interest is coming to the fore, as a member of the City's advisory committee questions recent revisions, not reviewed by the committee.

The News-Register reports, in an August 26 article:

A member of McMinnville's Economic Opportunities Analysis Advisory Committee has taken strong exception to changes made by consultant Eric Hovee, some of which countermanded committee recommendations and others of which added new elements the committee had not signed off on.

Mark Davis said some of the new elements, which he termed “expansions”, “could leave the committee open to charges by those who question the independence of our work that we favor the party paying for this EOA and that we accepted them without committee discussion.”

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Among elements Davis wants revised is a paragraph stating, “The city also has held ongoing discussions regarding potential development of a regional-scale shopping center in McMinnville. However, due to the absence of suitable sites and a previously documented commercial land deficiency in McMinnville, it has not been possible for the proposed development and the associated economic benefits to be realized.”

That's a project proposed by the developers who paid for the study, and Davis thinks the reference suggests support for it, when committee was, in fact, committed to neutrality.

He also cited a section terming McMinnville an ideal location for large retail centers and going on to discuss the need for such centers. Davis raised the same complaint with it, saying, “This language appears to primarily serve the interests of the party paying for the study.”

Another section now contends McMinnville is suffering “retail sales leakage due to lack of major comparison retail.”

Davis said, “McMinnville per capita annual retail sales exceed both the Oregon and U.S. figures by nearly 20 percent.” And he said that information was introduced during the committee discussion, calling into question the document's claims.

Another section refers to the lack of buildable commercially zoned land. He termed that “no longer true,” given the staff's recently revised buildable lands inventory.

Davis said the conclusion “needs to be changed to reflect committee consensus, and probably the rest of the language in this section needs to be altered to reflect that also.”

1000 Friends and local advocates will continue to monitor this situation closely. We will work to ensure that high strandards transparency are met throughout the process, and that prime industrial land is not lost unnecessarily to low-wage big-box development. If you have concerns and would like to be involved, please contact Willamette Valley Advocate Mia Nelson at mia@friends.org.

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