Newberg Graphic Editorial: Stop Unwarranted Attacks on Land Use Planning

Editorial Board
Newberg Graphic
Sat, 02/18/2012 (All day)

After a heated Newberg City Council meeting earlier this month, in which several members of the City Council expressed extreme anger at land use planning laws and 1000 Friends affiliate Friends of Yamhill County for blocking an illegal urban growth boundary expansion in January, the Newberg Graphic issued a strong rebuke in a February 18 editorial.

The editorial's text is below. Subscribers can also access the editorial through the Graphic's website.

On Feb. 6 all the members of the Newberg City Council, save for one, took the opportunity to rail against the state’s land use laws and a variety of groups after Charles and Ellen McClure announced they were ending their plan to construct a high-end housing subdivision, winery and senior care facility on their land near the intersection of Highway 99W and Benjamin Road.

In attendance that night at the Public Safety Building were a troop of Boy Scouts, who witnessed firsthand the council’s ire.

This was not the city council’s finest moment. In fact, we dare say, it was a disgrace.

The details of the plan were laid out on the front page of our Feb. 11 edition, so we won’t go into those here. But our point is that the council’s judgement, both on Feb. 6 and years ago when it allowed this plan to go forward, is questionable.

The council made the wrong decision when the McClures approached them seeking annexation in order to hook up to the city’s water system. The attractiveness of the plan was not sufficient reason for the city to circumvent its planning process and bring land into the city that hadn’t first been included in the urban reserve area and urban growth boundary.

The council railing against so-called “special interest groups,” in this case Friends of Yamhill County for calling the council to the carpet for its actions, was also misguided. Friends of Yamhill County was right to challenge the council on this plan, as the city wasn’t following its own land use policies.

We disagree in particular with councilor Stephen McKinney’s comments that special interest groups kept the McClures from developing their land to “a higher and better use.” Oregon’s land use system is clear, and has been since the early 1970s, that the best use of high quality farmland is for farming, not building subdivisions. That safeguarding farmland is important was part of the reason that voters, from all sides of the political spectrum, passed Measure 49 and reined in the unbridled development this state would have seen under Measure 37.

We also disagree with councilor Mark Shelton’s assertion that the McClures decision to withdraw the annexation is an affront to their constitutional rights and that they have been denied due process of law. The McClures’ constitutional rights – the 14th Amendment says the state can’t deprive them of life, liberty or property – were not abridged in any way. They still have their property and can develop it without the aid of the city if they see fit in accordance with laws voted on by the state’s citizens.

We suspect this issue comes down to money or, more accurately, taxes. Development of the McClure land would have funneled property taxes and system development charges into the city’s coffers at a time when city officials are having a difficult time operating in the black.

But what’s most disconcerting is the council’s admonishment to the Boy Scouts that they, in councilor Wade Witherspoon’s words, take note “because you are the leaders of tomorrow and we’re counting on you guys to keep this kind of thing from happening again in the future.”

The council should be very careful they are not planting the seeds of intolerance and mistrust of government in the youth of this community. That will not serve Newberg, the state or our country well in the future for which the Boy Scouts and all our youths will assume responsibility.