By JAMES DAY
The Corvallis Planning Commission unanimously passed Oregon State University’s proposal for a new residence hall Thursday night.
The vote came at the end of a three-hour meeting that included some contentious testimony from residents concerned about parking and traffic.
OSU hopes to build a residence hall that would house up to 300 students on what is now a parking lot whose boundaries are Southwest Adams Avenue, Southwest Washington Avenue, Southwest 13th Street and Southwest 14th Street.
The proposal required city approval because it represented an adjustment to OSU’s master plan. The commission also passed a recommendation on a Land Development Code text amendment that must accompany the master plan adjustment.
The decision on the adjustment can be appealed to the City Council, which has the final say on the text amendment.
One resident, Rick Hangartner, expressed an interest in appealing the master plan adjustment decision.
“We’re pleased,” said OSU campus planning manager David Dodson. “We anticipated that there would be concerns with parking, but generally speaking things went fairly well. And it was interesting to see that people came and testified in support of the project.”
The new dorm, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, is part of OSU’s plan to increase the number of freshmen living on campus to 90 percent and ameliorate neighborhood concerns about livability issues rising from OSU enrollment growth.
More than 200 parking spaces will be displaced by the residence hall, but Dodson noted that on-campus parking usage is at 68 percent, far below the 85 percent threshold that requires the university to take action.
Hangartner, Paul Cull and Dick Abraham, the three individuals who testified against the project, all challenged OSU’s parking numbers and maintained, at times forcefully, that the the university was not doing enough to ease parking problems in town.
Several commissioners, both during questioning and deliberations, noted that the reality of the parking situation might change dramatically if recommendations of the Collaboration Corvallis project, particularly expanded parking districts, are eventually approved.
But commissioners also noted that they didn’t have the luxury to wait for the collaboration process to play out before ruling on the new residence hall.
“We’ve asked OSU to do something about the problem,” said commissioner Frank Hann,“and they have responded.”
By JAMES DAY