CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University survey of voters in Yamhill County indicates that most local residents are concerned about fast growth and its effects on livability there.
A majority of the randomly-selected, 450 voters who answered a mail-in questionnaire expressed support for using current land use planning laws to control growth. The majority of respondents also expressed their opinions that new developments and industry should pay the full cost of development, without tax breaks or subsidies.
The OSU questionnaire-style survey, sent out in the spring of 1996, was sent to about 800 randomly-selected registered voters. The survey asked questions about perceptions about local growth, livability and the future.
Bruce Weber, OSU professor of agricultural and resource economics, Robert Mason, OSU professor emeritus of statistics at OSU and Ann Schauber, staff chair of the Yamhill County office of the OSU Extension Service, conducted the study, funded by the Yamhill County Commissioners and OSU.
"Growth and livability in Yamhill County are priority issues with the county commissioners," Schauber said. "They were interested in getting a citizens' perspective on the issue which reached far beyond a public meeting. They wanted to hear from a representative sample of county citizens. Thus, the survey was born."
In the survey, the OSU authors defined "livability" as the quality of characteristics that relate to living a good life, such as jobs, fear of crime, environmental quality, good health care and so forth, Weber said.
"Yamhill citizens think livability is good right now, but are worried about and expect a lot of growth in the future," said Weber. "They are pretty worried their taxes will increase if growth happens."
Results indicate that citizens find Yamhill County a livable place to reside - and they would like to keep it that way, explained Weber.
Yamhill County is the sixth fastest growing county in Oregon, according to the Portland State University Center for Population Research and Census. The population increased by 13.8 percent between 1990 and 1995, an annual rate of 2.6 percent.
When asked about what issues they felt that most affected the livability of Yamhill County, Weber said a majority indicated land use and water quality. Job opportunities and adequate transportation were not deemed as important by most respondents.
Most of the respondents said in the survey they believe that Yamhill County will continue to grow "a lot" in the next five years and that growth will lead to higher county property taxes, said Weber. Yet, there is support for services that require taxation - improving roads and continued water management.
"Indeed, more than 60 percent supported increasing property taxes to fund certain efforts to reduce crime - efforts like 'Neighborhood Watch' that employ volunteers and non-jail alternatives for non-violent offenders, and services to children and families," he said.
There was also support expressed for controlling growth and making new development pay its own way, he said.
"Almost 60 percent of the respondents supported denying special tax breaks to corporations," said Weber.
Although people indicated they don't want to stop growth, they want to slow it down and direct where it goes, Weber pointed out.
"There is strong support for existing land use planning laws and maintaining the urban growth boundaries," he said. "We already have those systems in place in Oregon."
How might these results apply to other regions around the state?
"If you think about most places in Oregon that are growing rapidly, I think you'll find the same concerns about growth and livability as in Yamhill County," said Weber.
Only Washington, Deschutes, Jefferson, Curry and Josephine Counties are growing faster than Yamhill County, according to information from the PSU Center for Population Research and Census.
Copies of the report, "Livability in Yamhill County: Opinions of County Voters," (Special Report 967), are available from: Ann Schauber, Yamhill County Office, OSU Extension Service, 2050 Lafayette St., McMinnville, OR 97128-9333. Include your name and address and $1.25 to cover postage costs.
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Bruce Weber, 541-737-1432