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The citizens of Philomath have a very important decision to make concerning the future of our community. Hopefully the recent attempt to place a correctional facility/Benton County jail in Philomath against the wishes of the voters has served as a lesson in hollow promises by developers and city officials.

When developer Dan Desler talked city officials into using official letterhead to support and promote his development of the old mill site, they first had to convince the citizens to annex the property into the city.

That was easy. Desler’s development later known as “Lakeside Industrial Park” was listed in the voter pamphlet with no plans, only a concept based on promises to the school district, city, business community and of course, the voters. The voters approved this classic bait-and-switch with assurances from the city manager and council that this development would be a win-win situation for the entire community.

Mr. Desler, having successfully up zoned the mill site property making it much more valuable, sold the property, took his profits and promises and left town. During the public hearing process, many issues raised concerning Mr. Desler's past business dealings were ignored. (To learn more Google Dan Desler, Lakeside Industrial Park).

The city's position on this property was once it was annexed, it would still have to go through Philomath land-use process and criteria; that was true then and still is. However the voters didn't annex the mill site so a jail could be built in our community.

City officials supported and promoted the jail in Philomath against overwhelming opposition from the citizens. It was Philomath’s voters’ heavy opposition to the siting issue that killed the Benton County jail bond’s third attempt.

The city violated its own annexation ordinance which I helped staff and the city attorney write. Annexing land into the city without detailed impact analysis and plans will only lead to future growth problems for the city and its citizens. They changed our city charter to have a voice in our future growth.

There are many costs to taxpayers annexing land into the city limits. If the annexation is approved, city utilities and services need to be delivered — water and sewer are just the beginning. Oregon is one of only a few states that do not allow system development charges (SDCs) for fire, police, libraries, maintenance or additional school facilities. These are huge public services that the citizens have to pay for through bonds and higher taxes.

If you think traffic is bad now, double it. The Oregon Department of Transportation has not performed traffic analysis nor has the city, why? There has been no analysis as to the impact concerning water and sewer. The city has publicly stated that the water treatment facilities have not been updated, in part due to past broken promises by developers.

More fundamental to the question: Even if the city had the money to double its water treatment facilities’ capacity, where would they get the product — “water.” At one point in time, the city council voted and instructed staff to make water usage part of the “applicable criteria” for land use development. Why was that item removed?

Wells are going dry and river levels are dropping as well as our reservoirs. Cities that face multiple land use developments at the same time are promising the same water to all of them, as in Philomath’s current case, and historically, the voters are asked to approve annexation requests without plans and impact analysis on our community.

Developers complain it's too expensive to produce plans before the annexation vote. They assure the city and voters after they are voted into the city that they will produce plans. How can the citizens vote on promises only to see them broken like “Lakeside Industrial Park?”

As a community, several annexations will be on the ballot that will be mailed out Oct. 19 for the November elections. Chapel Drive LLC (Lowther) measure 2-102 is the biggest and potentially could have the greatest impact on Philomath’s future.

As we have witnessed, what you vote for might not be what you get. What the voters approve can be totally changed, the property owners could ask the city council for a zone change to R-3 high density housing, which the council is currently considering at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Drive around Corvallis and look at all of the apartment bunkers being placed in old single-family residential neighborhoods. You can also see this happening now in Philomath.

Don't vote on promises. Consider facts and the impact these developments could have on you and your family that is our community.

Jeff Lamb, a longtime business owner and community activist, is the founding president of Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexations, which promotes and protects citizens’ rights in land-use issues. He was instrumental in passing Philomath’s annexation ordinance.

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