The city of Corvallis has lost a major battle in the fight over development on Timberhill.
A Benton County Circuit Court judge has ordered the city to comply with a state enforcement order that would remove a planned development overlay from more than 200 acres of property in the Timberhill area north of the Kings Boulevard-Walnut Boulevard intersection.
Removing the overlay will make it easier for the property owners, GPA1 and Forest Heights, to develop the parcels, which constitute the largest chunk of undeveloped land zoned for residential use inside the Corvallis city limits.
The state Land Conservation and Development Commission issued the enforcement order March 23, but the city has appealed that decision to the state Court of Appeals.
“The enforcement order is a valid order from a state agency,” Benton County Circuit Court Judge Locke Williams noted in his order, dated Nov. 27. Because the Land Conservation and Development Commission and the state Court of Appeals “have denied to stay … the order while the appeal is pending … the order, therefore, is effective and binding upon the city.”
Williams ordered the city to comply no later than its Dec. 18 City Council meeting. Williams also noted that the property owners may petition the court for “an award of reasonable attorney fees, costs and disbursements.”
The city, meanwhile, has pulled back — or voluntarily remanded — its Oct. 20 decision to remove the planned development overlay “under protest.” That decision was before the state Land Use Board of Appeals because neighbors who organized to oppose development plans in the region have appealed it.
Sean Malone, attorney for the Northwest Alliance of Corvallis, said that the group's LUBA appeal is on hold for the time being. But he added that “the decision in circuit court does not address a variety of issues that place the enforcement order on tenuous grounds on appeal.”
Dale Kern, a broker with Commercial Associates, which is working with the property owners, said that “development plans for Timberhill are winding their way through the city on the clear and objective track. GPA1 will continue to assert its rights to develop the Timberhill property.
“It is increasingly likely that in the relatively near future new homes will begin to be built at Timberhill.”
Kern also said that GPA1 “is tabulating its costs … and will be applying to the court for an attorney fee award against the city.”
Corvallis City Attorney Jim Brewer said that the city action at the Dec. 18 council meeting “will need to comply with (the Williams) decision.”
When asked for further comment on the court order Brewer said: “No, I think it speaks for itself.”