City planners are evaluating a land-use application from a national student housing developer that aims to build a large apartment complex on the Witham Oaks property.

The 95-acre lot on Northwest Harrison Boulevard west of 36th Street was annexed into the city in 2004. A previous owner planned to build a 221-home subdivision there but walked away from the venture after the housing market crashed.

Campus Crest Communities of Charlotte, N.C., has an option on the property and wants to build about 300 apartments on the site for students attending nearby Oregon State University.

But it needs a zone change first.

Campus Crest is asking the city for a comprehensive plan amendment redesignating 25 acres of the site from low-density residential to high-density residential with a corresponding zoning change from RS-6 to RS-12.

It also wants to change the comp plan and zoning map to designate the other 70 acres for open space conservation. Part of that land is now designated low-density residential.

Both requests will be reviewed by the Corvallis Planning Commission, which will make a decision on the zone change and a recommendation to the City Council on the comp plan amendment.

The application filed with the city late last month does not include a detailed development plan but asks for a limit of 310 dwelling units on the site. That is slightly larger than the 296-unit, 792-bedroom project Campus Crest officials previously discussed in meetings with community members.

Campus Crest executives could not be reached for clarification on Wednesday.

City staff is reviewing the Campus Crest application now.

"We'll get our comments back to the applicant, and they'll respond," associate city planner Brian Alatta said. "Once we get a complete application, we'll schedule a public hearing."

Alatta anticipates that the matter likely will go before the Planning Commission in March.

In the meantime, opponents of the project are lining up to fight the zone change request.

The Friends of Witham Oaks, a citizens group formed to preserve the property, sent out an email over the weekend alerting its supporters to the land use application and asking them to get ready to testify before the Planning Commission.

"It is time to get to work," the email begins. It goes on to say the Friends board is reading through the application to develop a list of questions and will help citizens prepare their testimony. The group also plans to circulate a petition to "show the Planning Commission how many people are opposed to the zone change."

Contact Bennett Hall at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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