Hearing held on county-line property

Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker will decide whether property on the Linn and Lane county line near Harrisburg should be rezoned from Farm/Forest to Non-Resource five-acre minimum on Nov. 23.

The commissioners held a public hearing about the issue Tuesday, Oct. 5, at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center. The Planning Commission has already given its approval.

The James Olsen family owned 67.1 acres south of Mt. Tom Drive about seven and-a-half miles southeast of Harrisburg. The Linn and Lane county line borders the property’s southern boundary line. The property is part of a 290-acre parcel, but according to Olsen and his representative, this portion is conducive to crop production.

Olsen said both sides of his family have farmed in the Willamette Valley since the 1800s – from Salem to Halsey and Brownsville to Corvallis – and they have knowledge about numerous forms of crop production. He added that the family has tried to grow cannabis and grapes on the parcel and both crops failed. He said the ground would yield only about $5 per acre if rented out for pasture.

Attorney Joel Kallberg of Albany reminded the commissioners that the application’s for a rezoning and not for development of a subdivision at this time, and that one currently exists near the property’s north side. The property’s potential to support a tree farm, he continued, “is exceptionally low,” and an independent agronomist noted it is not suited for crop production.

Proposal opponents expressed concern that a housing subdivision could negatively affect water wells, lead to groundwater contamination and possibly pollute Coleman Creek, which flows into Muddy Creek. That could lead to riparian issues; create conflicts with area cattle ranchers and pose accessibility issues for police, fire and ambulance services. Some neighbors said they were already seeing production from their water wells decreasing due to climate change. 

The commissioners will keep the record open for written comment for two weeks and allow four more weeks for the give-and-take of the land use process. The commissioners will render a decision during another public hearing at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

In other business, the commissioners:

n Approved a temporary easement for $2,190 with Shonda Warner of Osprey Corner LLC for the construction of the Folsom Road, Mill Creek Bridge project.

n Approved a letter of support so the Road Department can apply for a grant from the Oregon Federal Lands Access Program. If successful, the $4.38 million grant will be used to improve five single-lane bridges on Upper Calapooia Drive south of Sweet Home as part of a road improvement project. The road provides access to 7,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands and almost 1,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land.  

n Approved a request by John Pascone, manager of the Linn County Enterprise Zone, to add 98 acres owned by Knife River to the Linn County Enterprise Zone. The company has constructed an employee training center on Kennel Road and is bringing in people from across the country. Being part of the Enterprise Zone will provide the company with tax incentives due to the addition of new jobs in the county.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer