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Commissioners agree to hear concerns about land swap


March 15, 2023

Linn County commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker agreed after a brief public hearing Feb. 28 to accept written comments about a proposed land swap in Millersburg for 72 hours, giving that city’s officials time to respond and schedule another public hearing for Tuesday, March 14, at the Linn County Expo Center in Albany.

Millersburg hopes to move 167-plus acres near the southwest corner of its urban growth boundary and trade it for an adjacent 163 acres. Both properties are zoned for farming, although the latter is considered better farm ground than what it would replace, which is allowed by land use planning rules. A young hazelnut orchard comprises those 167-plus acres.

The county held a public hearing on the issue in January. However, city representatives didn’t offer many details regarding their rationale for this proposal, nor what type of industry might purchase the property in question.

After that meeting, the city held a public meeting at the Expo Center, where it provided information about the Italian firm Sofidel, which had expressed interest in developing a paper mill at the site. The global company manufactures everything from paper towels to toilet paper. To the county’s knowledge, no purchase contracts have been signed.

Area farmers opposed the “swap” at the January hearing, arguing that prime farmland should not be taken out of production and that the city shouldn’t creep further westward onto adjoining farmlands.

After the hearing, commissioners provided time for written comments regarding the proposal, plus time for rebuttal. During this time, one person among many commenters noted a local social media blog had covered the public meeting.

Board Chairman Nyquist said Feb. 28 that he believed the public had a right to comment since so much new information was made available at the Millersburg meeting. He added that the commissioners can take “compatibility” into consideration when looking at land use requests, and that the term meant different things to different people.

Tucker reminded his fellow commissioners that the decision criteria did not include what type of business the property may host.

“Our decision has nothing to do with what’s coming there,” he said.

However, Nyquist mentioned an issue of “optics and a sense of fairness.”

“At the January 24 public hearing, the client didn’t seem to know much about what type of industry was interested,” he said. “It just wasn’t done in a way that gave members of the public an opportunity to speak. The record seems to be incomplete, or just not correct.”

Commissioner Sprenger said that while she was always anxious to settle land-use issues quickly, she was “hesitant to close the door” on comments just yet.

Information about the March 14 hearing was not available at press time.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer


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