A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Linn board nixes Millersburg land application

Written March 14th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

This orchard near the Conser Road railroad crossing stays outside Millersburg’s urban growth boundary — for now. (Photo taken March 7.)

Linn County commissioners voted 2-1 this morning to reject an application by Millersburg to add a 164-acre filbert orchard to its urban growth boundary on the town’s west side.

Roger Nyquist and Sherrie Sprenger voted to deny the city’s request. Will Tucker opposed the motion.

The decision, for now anyway, prevents Millersburg from annexing and rezoning the orchard to make way for the construction of a tissue-making paper factory the Italian company Sofidel has proposed for the site.

As unlikely as it seems, the county said in a press release that urban growth boundary decisions cannot be appealed. If that’s so, it would preclude Millersburg from taking the case to the Land Use Board of Appeals. But presumably it could still take it to circuit court.

Millersburg wants to swap lands by taking the orchard into the area within the growth boundary and removing land of equal size to the south. That land is owned by International Paper Company and held ponds of treated wastewater from the company’s kraft paper mill, closed in 2009 and demolished in 2012.

To me, the Linn commissioners’ decision upholds one of the central principles of Oregon’s system of land-use regulation: Protect and preserve farmland, especially in the Willamette Valley, from encroachment by industrial and residential sprawl. (hh)

5 responses to “Linn board nixes Millersburg land application”

  1. Suzi says:

    Thank you, Hasso. Friends of Linn County is pleased with the decision of the BOC to deny Millersburg’s application for the UGB swap. This decision adheres to the letter of the law as contained in Linn County Code, but more importantly it upholds the spirit of Oregon’s Statewide Land Use Planning Goals that emphasize farmland protection, not to mention citizen involvement in land use decisions. We are grateful for the efforts of the many farmers and local residents who came out in opposition to the application.

  2. centrist says:

    Applaud this decision.
    Taking productive land out of service to erect a manufacturing site is just plain wrong. Justifying it would involve magic and doublespeak.

  3. jack oneill says:

    A very good decision

  4. H. R. Richner says:

    I believe the decision may be correct not because of the farm land bias virtue of land use regulation. From what I read, I suspect the land offered for trade was not really equivalent, having been used by the owners to get rid of waste water. I also doubt that all farmers are in favor of “protecting” their land if it happens that it would be worth more for a different purpose. Allocating resources by law, instead of by the market, diminishes their value, and we all are poorer for it.

    • Suzi says:

      I believe you are correct, sort of. The land offered for trade was to be rezoned from industrial to exclusive farm use (EFU) in exchange for the farmland being rezoned from EFU to industrial. However this tract has features that seriously impact its ability to be farmed: flooding, ravines, potential contamination and more. This would violate Linn County Code 921.874(7). And yes, some farmers might be tempted to sell their land at higher prices for others uses, especially if they are ready to retire and have no children interested in farming. This is why land zoned for exclusive farm use must be protected and remain zoned for exclusive farm use.


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