Conservation group flags zoning design for Nyssa center

An artists depiction of the rail reload center after it is constructed north of Nyssa. 1000 Friends of Oregon recently sent a letter to Malheur County and the city of Nyssa about preliminary land zoning moves for the new facility. (Courtesy of Malheur County Economic Development).

VALE – A state conservation group wants Malheur County to go back and do its homework on a plan to rezone exclusive farmland for industrial use, part of a blueprint to make way for a $26 million rail reload center.

The group 1000 Friends of Oregon issued a letter last month to the Malheur County Court, Nyssa City Council, and both governments’ planning commissions. The conservation advocacy group outlined its concerns regarding a move to expand Nyssa’s urban growth boundary, which would include allowing industrial development of 128 acres now reserved exclusively for farming. Another 68 acres planned for rezoning were not mentioned as a cause of concern for 1000 Friends of Oregon.

County and city leaders, along with planning commission members, met in late September and tentatively agreed to the plan. The zoning decision is designed to create more land for a planned reload center north of Nyssa, which would make it cheaper for ag producers to ship their crops by rail.

The tentative zoning decision would mean changing the county and Nyssa’s comprehensive development plan, which guides decisions about where to encourage what kinds of growth and what kind of infrastructure work should be pursued to support it.

That plan was at the heart of the concerns raised by 1000 Friends of Oregon.

In the letter, Alexis Biddle, urban circuit rider, said the “substance of the current proposal … has not adequately addressed the relevant land use laws.”

Biddle wrote that neither the county nor Nyssa submitted enough information about changes to the county’s comprehensive plan to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Biddle also said in the letter that the county and Nyssa failed to create a study area and clearly outline why the land in question should be added to the urban growth area. Biddle pointed out that there is a lack of “factual documentation” to support the land use change as needed to free up land for the rail center.

Biddle also wrote the decision by the county and Nyssa did not fall in line with the several of the state’s land use planning goals.

Stephanie Williams, Malheur County counsel, said the county and Nyssa will be able to address all of the concerns raised by Biddle.

“This is all just part of the land use, public input process. We are working our way through it,” said Williams.