Millersburg farmers fight harmful land swap

The Linn County Planning Commission voted unanimously on January 10th to reject a proposed application for an urban growth boundary (UGB) “swap” to bring 163 acres of prime farmland into the Millersburg UGB in exchange for a 167.46-acre tract of industrially-zoned land that would be removed from the UGB.

The farmland parcel to be swapped has been actively farmed for decades and is an integral part of the farmland base in the area, having been leased by different farmers in the area over the years and used to grow dozens of different crops. The industrially-zoned tract for which it was being exchanged had not been farmed in anyone’s memory.

In October, the City of Millersburg found there were obstacles to developing a broader range of industrial uses on the UGB tract that did not exist on the flatter, open tract of farmland. They conducted a minimalist alternatives analysis of three other tracts of prime farmland outside the UGB, failing to consider other potential properties consistent with the statutory priorities for UGB-included lands. 

The City of Millersburg found that both the industrially-zoned tract and the EFU-zoned tract had prime soils and were of a similar size and while they acknowledged that the EFU-zoned property had been in active farm use for years, and it would take a good bit of investment to prepare the compromised urban tract for agricultural use. They found that the desirability of the farm tract for industrial development trumped its use as farmland.

Both the City of Millersburg and Linn County have to approve changes to the UGB.

Working with local farmers and our local affiliate, Friends of Linn County, 1000 Friends of Oregon helped farmers and local residents prepare to testify against the land swap at the Linn County Planning Commission meeting on the January 10th.

More than a dozen people testified against the swap and as a result, the Linn County Planning Commission recognized the city’s UGB swap analysis was flawed and rejected the proposal unanimouslyan important victory and first step on the path to stopping this harmful land swap for good!

“Well, an absolutely rousing land planning meeting last night. The Millersburg city planner was the one single person to testify in favor of a boondoggle zoning swap deal. The audience of 30 or so folks was 100% in opposition, about half of them making statements for the record. The Planning Commission denied the application by unanimous vote. There will be an appeal next at the County Commissioner level, and likely on up the ladder. Still, it was a heartening example of how things can (sometimes) work.”

— John Marble, Linn County rancher