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Letter: Umatilla County must allow more rural development

Published on January 3, 2018 6:01PM

Regarding your editorial of Dec. 27, “Oregon must protect its ag zoning rules,” I would like to provide a rebuttal.

The current zoning program is not what was originally promised. It is totally socialistic. It is designed to force everyone into paying city water, sewer, garbage, taxes and retirement benefits. It’s about government control.

We were originally promised 10-acre home sites, then 19, then 40, and now 160 to 240 acre minimum lot sizes. We were also promised 10-year periodic reviews to insure that there would be a 10-year supply. Very few people want or can afford 160-acre parcels. No periodic reviews are being done now.

Remember that about 10 years ago Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 37 to allow for more building sites outside of our urban growth boundaries.

The Legislature quickly passed Measure 49 to allow two 2-acre clustered building sites adjacent to certain qualifying land owners’ improvements. No one likes living in the country right next to two other neighbors.

Douglas County is growing faster than Umatilla County and the conflict between socialism and free enterprise was bound to happen. If Oregon’s economy was better it would have already happened.

Umatilla County’s planning department has killed numerous job opportunities. Costco at Stateline in Milton-Freewater, an autoplex at Ferndale Road in Milton-Freewater, commercial growth on the Highway 11 between Milton-Freewater and Stateline, a compost operation between Adams and Athena, Oregon’s largest truck stop at Westland Road and housing at the Pendleton Country Club.

We now have virtually no building sites available outside of the urban growth boundaries in east Umatilla County. We need an inventory of 2-acre, 5-acre and 10-acre building sites.

Government thinks that landowners want to develop those sites. If they do not sell their property, taxes completely eat up the profits in 2 to 4 years. Landowners are not going to race into financial ruin. Planners would simply target the locations that they wanted these to happen. Planners would understand affordable housing and encourage “smart growth.” Smart growth has narrower roads, smaller cul-de-sacs, curbs and sidewalks on one side of the street and barrow pits on the downhill side of the streets, to eliminate stormwater runoffs into our streams.

There has been a zero planning vision in Umatilla County for the last 30 years. We are now hiring a new planning director. Let us hope we get one that understands demand and supply, affordable housing principals and jobs.

Kalvin B. Garton



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