Morrow County is providing a growing number of jobs in the region, but at the end of the workday, the majority of those people go back to their homes somewhere else.
That may be slowly starting to change.
Morrow County Planning Director Carla McLane said the county is looking seriously at how to house the many people who work in the county but don’t live there.
“The commute pattern is out of sync with the housing pattern,” she said. “As the port has grown, we haven’t seen the residential part of Morrow County keep pace with that.”
In the last two months, the Morrow County Planning Commission has approved permits for new housing and rental units in the area, and will launch a committee to study the developable land in the county next month.
At a meeting on Monday, the commission approved a request for the Ruggs Ranch, near Heppner, to use the facility as a guest lodge all year, and approved a land partition for a non-farm dwelling unit, also near Heppner.
In July, the commission approved a permit for the Gala Springs Subdivision, comprised of 14 two-acre lots west of Boardman that will be used for residential development.
McLane said when that parcel was up for approval at last month’s planning commission meeting, some people were concerned about the impact it would have on other residents in the area.
“There were a number of people testifying with concerns about the water table, 14 new septic systems,” she said, adding that the area is already designated for high nitrates. “They don’t want to say no to development, but they want to be conscientious of how to balance it.”
She said the planning commission acknowledged those were concerns that may need to be addressed down the road, but seven of the nine commissioners voted in favor of the development.
McLane said there has been some growth in the northern part of the county, both in and out of city limits.
“I’ve been here 17 years and have probably seen half a dozen subdivisions approved and built,” she said.
But she added that many of those subdivisions are reaching full capacity now.
“I think (Gala Springs) will begin to meet this next set of demands,” she said.
She said they have not yet found a developer for the land, and that it’s unlikely there will be any construction on the site until spring.
A 120-unit apartment complex being built in Boardman, McLane said, may soon pave the way for more housing within city limits.
“Depending on how quickly that fills up, they have another phase planned, another 120 units,” she said.
McLane said as the north end of the county has attracted business, the south end has struggled, both with jobs and with housing.
“The demographic of south county — it’s an aging population,” she said. She noted that the area saw a lot of foreclosures between 2007 and 2009, and there has been a push to get those homes back on the market.
She added that in the past 20 years or so, there have been two subdivisions built in Ione, but even those are almost at capacity. Geographical concerns such as hillier terrain, she said, make the south end of the county more challenging for finding buildable lots, as well.
“People are figuring it out, but it’s hard to find places to live in south county,” she said.
McLane said the planning commission will launch its Buildable Lands Inventory and Housing Analysis in early September. Those involved in the project will collect data about potential residential land throughout the county. All five incorporated cities will participate, and the project should be completed by March 2019.
“We have lots of anecdotal information, but this is much bigger and broader,” McLane said.
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4534.