In this installment of The Way We Work, we speak with Sid Friedman from Friends of Yamhill County.  Crag Law Center has been working with Friends of Yamhill County through various land use projects, a large part of our work here at Crag.  Crag has had dozens of these cases through the years; developers with plans to build large scale developments on prime farmland are working hard to move forward with plans under Measure 37, and Crag continues to support neighbors and communities as they seek to preserve the rural character of their communities.  Crag intern Tim Fitchett recently made an oral argument in one of these cases.

Crag has been doing a lot of work with Friends of Yamhill County over the years, working on issues related to measures 37 and 49.  Can you tell us a little bit about the goal of this work and how it impacts your community? 

The measure 37/49 work is really critical to maintaining our quality of life and to protecting farm and forestland from slipshod overdevelopment. The work is all about stopping illegal subdivisions on farmland and forestland and protecting the land for future generations, and also about protecting our neighbors who have made investments based on the zoning laws in the area. Most of the particular rural subdivisions we’re fighting are located in groundwater limited areas where the supply is already threatened. The wells that would be drilled would further threaten this resource and put water supplies at risk. One of the proposed subdivisions is in a remote area adjacent to the upper reaches of the Yamhill River and and could impact coho salmon and steelhead. This work addresses environmental as well as economic concerns.

What are your organization’s other priorities, goals and projects?

Friends of Yamhill County was founded in the mid 1990s with the purpose of working to protect farm and forestland from illegal rural subdivisions and ranchettes. We’re also all about responsible urban development – compact forms of housing where various people can live in variety of living accommodations where they’re near public transportation or within biking distance of their workplaces.

We have also been involved with proposals to expand the urban growth boundaries in Newberg and McMinnville, which would take over prime farmland.  In addition we’re very involved in the fight to keep Riverbend Landfill from expanding.  It’s the largest regional land dump west of the Cascades, and as the name suggests, located right on the banks of a river.  Its already leaking into groundwater and there’s strong evidence that the toxins are reaching the Yamhill River.

What are your biggest concerns for Yamhill County communities in the coming years?

Here in Yamhill County we have some of the best soils in the country for agriculture and forestry, and thriving agriculture including the wine industry. We’re located between Portland and Salem and face immense pressures from urban sprawl, as well as rural subdivisions and people who want to build ‘trophy houses’ in the middle of the farmland.  We’ve got a rapidly growing tourist industry, largely based on vineyards and wineries, which brings opportunities as well as challenges as we try to make sure the consequent development occurs in the towns that need that tourism revenue and not in the countrysides.

What services or qualities does Crag bring to your work at Friends of Yamhill County?

Crag’s resources and legal expertise have been invaluable in our measure 37/49 work. There is no way we could possibly achieve the successes we’ve had without the hard work of Ralph Bloemers and other staff at Crag as well as the many volunteers and interns who have given time, expertise and passion to assist in our struggles.

What about Crag inspires you and your work?

There is a great depth to Crag’s commitment to ensuring that our land use laws and environmental laws are adhered to, and impressive passion and energy they bring to this work.

For more info on Friends of Yamhill County:

McKenna Ganz is a pre-law junior at Duke University.  She interned with the Crag Law Center in the summer of 2015 as part of the Duke Engage Portland program. She is majoring in Global Culture, Media, and Political Conflict with minors in Economics and Global Health.

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