The Corvallis City Council clarified its policy on annexations Monday night and then took widely different approaches to the three annexation cases at hand.
Councilors voted 7-1 to stop sending annexation requests to the voters pending the outcome of city appeals of a 2016 state law that sought to limit voter-approved annexations. The vote came at the end of a two-hour-and-20-minute public hearing on the issue before a crowd of 100 people at the LaSells Stewart Center.
The meeting was moved from the downtown fire station because of high interest in the topic.
Councilors also voted 8-0 to have a more comprehensive discussion on the topic within the next 90 days.
Sixteen people spoke during the 47 minutes of public testimony. Eleven individuals urged the city to continue the fight for the “home rule” component of the city charter. Many audience members wore tags that called for the council to “defend your charter.”
“Legislators for 40 years have been trying to take the people out of the people’s business,” said Jeff Lamb of Philomath, vice chair of Oregon Communities for Voice in Annexations. “This is not about affordable housing. It’s about the city charter. A charter is what everyone lives by.”
Five residents called for a quicker route to land acquisitions and for following the new law, SB 1573. The measure is now before the state Court of Appeals, although it remains uncertain when the city’s appeal will be heard. Among those testifying for the change was former Corvallis planning division manager Kevin Young, who now works for Benton County.
Young, who said he was only speaking for himself, noted that Corvallis housing costs and rental rates are the highest in the region.
“We are becoming the Lake Oswego of the mid-valley,” said Young, “a gated community for those who can afford it.”
Penny York (Ward 1), Roen Hogg (Ward 2), Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3), Barbara Bull (Ward 4), Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5), Bill Glassmire (Ward 7) and Mark Page (Ward 8) voted to stop sending annexations to the voters. Hal Brauner of Ward 9 voted no, and Nancy Wyse of Ward 6 was not present.
“This is not as complex as some might make it,” Page said. “I can’t think of any time in my life in which a court order is not a court order. We are a city and a nation of laws. We should follow the law.”
Brauner said that “voter annexations are not a good idea, but we have a charter and it was voted into that charter. If we go with this motion, we are violating our charter. If we continue (to send annexations to the voters), we are violating a court order and state law. It’s a catch-22. We are going to be illegal no matter which way we do it.”
Councilors then moved on to the three annexation proposals before them. Here is a quick look at their rulings:
Councilors voted unanimously to approve a plan by Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center to expand its north Corvallis campus into 17 acres it owns to the north. Hogg put forth a motion to postpone the vote to give councilors more time to consider the plan because “we have just changed the rules on annexation.”
One of those rules requires timely council action to enable the proposal to make it onto the May 15 ballot. Councilors rejected Hogg’s motion on a 7-1 vote, noting that no one had opposed the plan at the council’s public hearing.
The plan to add more than 90 units of housing and an assisted living center to 16-plus acres west of West Hills Road was roiled by the presence of new documents that the applicant said it had not had time to review. Councilors voted 7-1 to accept the documents into the record (Lytle voted no) and then 8-0 to hear the applicant’s response and perhaps render a decision at the Feb. 20 council meeting.
The most controversial and complicated of the three annexation proposals would add more than 1,000 units of housing — and perhaps more than 2,000 — to 118 acres of land northeast of the West Hills-53rd Street roundabout. Councilors voted 5-3 not to admit new documents into the record and then in a pair of 6-2 votes chose to temporarily deny the application while directing staff to work on an annexation agreement with the property owner, David Lin.
Key items that councilors want covered in the agreement are transportation access, transportation safety, the density and scale of the development and stormwater issues.
No word was available regarding when such an agreement might be ready for council review.