Problem: The city of Corvallis needs to find 12 acres of land in the city limits to rezone for high-density residential use.
Solution: Set up maps of the city and have members of the City Council affix yellow dots to spots that might be worth looking at.
That was the main drill Thursday at a council work session on the ongoing buildable lands inventory (BLI) work that the state requires. The project will help guide Corvallis land use and growth for the next two decades.
It was all a matter of following the dots, which revealed:
• The strongest interest in building high-density residential was in South Corvallis, particularly on the Highway 99W (Southwest Third Street) corridor and along the Willamette River near the Hollingsworth & Vose plant.
• Councilors also noted “rural” Oregon State University property south of Harrison Boulevard and the “south farm” area between Philomath Boulevard and Brooklane Drive.
• Other areas that received mention (i.e., dots) were industrial land near the Republic Services operation on Walnut Boulevard, parcels surrounding Crescent Valley High School, land west of the HP Inc. campus and swaths along Ninth Street and in the downtown core.
The OSU piece of the puzzle was a consistent thread. Community Development Director Paul Bilotta in his opening remarks noted that since 2000, OSU has increased its on-campus housing capacity by 1,250 students, but its enrollment is up more than 8,300. Thus, 7,000 more students are in the market for housing off-campus than in 2000.
Bilotta also noted that data the city collected in community surveys showed that residents are OK with multifamily housing but less OK with such housing being occupied by students.
“They liked the form but not the occupants,” Bilotta said. “And that gets into fair housing issues. We’re still trying to find the answer to where the students should go, and the surveys didn’t help us a whole lot.”
Ward 1 Councilor Penny York posed the question of “whether there is a way to reconfigure OSU agricultural land for more housing. I would like to push that conversation.”
York added that the city needs to take a long-term view on the issue. The OSU agricultural lands, she said, used to be at the extreme edge of the city. Now, they are being surrounded by development.
One solution, York suggested, might be to move some OSU functions further out to Benton County land.
“Might there be a higher, better use?” she asked about OSU land closer to the city core.
Councilors, who are being encouraged by Bilotta and city planners to give them some direction on the residential deficit and the BLI in the next six months, likely will take up the issue again at their March 22 work session.