The site of a former lumber mill on the southeastern edge of Philomath could become a major residential development if the plan’s backers can get it annexed into the city.
The property in question is a 159-acre parcel within the city’s urban growth boundary north of Chapel Drive between 23rd and 30th streets, just east of the high school and middle school and south of Applegate Street.
Millersburg Land and Development LLC, which has an option to buy the property, filed an annexation application and has announced plans to build up to 660 homes on the site. The land is owned by Chapel Drive LLC, a venture headed by Adam, Deana and Justin Lowther.
The plans also call for riparian corridors along a couple of creeks on the property, as well as several small parks and 5 acres of neighborhood commercial development.
At a Philomath Planning Commission meeting on June 20, Mike Agee of Millersburg Land and Development said the company intends to develop the property in phases over the next 10 to 15 years, according to a report in the Philomath Express. The newspaper also noted that a number of citizens spoke against the plan, citing concerns about traffic, population growth and strain on the local water supply.
A city staff report projected that the development would add 1,788 residents at full buildout to Philomath’s current population of 4,650. The report said that level of growth would put a strain on the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure but also noted that the city has planned for those needs and set up systems development charges to pay for expanding those facilities.
Further, the report concluded that the proposal complied with the city’s comprehensive plan and recommended approval.
The Planning Commission voted to send the proposal to the City Council, which will consider the matter in a public hearing on July 11.
If approved, the proposal would go before the voters in the Nov. 8 general election, but it’s not clear what would happen after that.
While Philomath voters have defeated two previous attempts to annex the Chapel Drive property, in 2005 and 2006, the legal landscape has changed since then.
Last March, the Legislature passed a package of affordable housing legislation that overturned local ordinances requiring voter approval of annexation decisions. Both Philomath and Corvallis, among other jurisdictions that had such provisions in their charters, have vowed to fight the new law, which has yet to be tested in court.
Philomath City Manager Chris Workman said Thursday that the Chapel Drive developers have agreed to take their annexation proposal to an election, but if the voters turn them down, they could ask the City Council to approve their plan.
Workman considers that unlikely, given that the councilors voted unanimously to challenge the ban on annexation elections.
“I just don’t see them backing away from that,” he said.
If the developers do ask the council to approve the annexation and get turned down, however, that would open the possibility of an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, which might uphold the state law and order the council to grant the request.
“There’s several directions it could go at this point,” Workman said.