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Philomath City Hall artwork

The Philomath Planning Commission moved forward a 19.88-acre annexation application to the city council on a 5-1 vote during its Oct. 22 meeting.

The applicant, Levi Beelart, said he plans to construct 30 to 40 single-family homes on the site, which has significant space constraints because of protected wetlands and riparian corridors. The property is located on North 12th Street in the northern section of the city’s urban growth boundary and borders the city limits on two sides. The site currently features a single-family dwelling and a barn.

Beelart, who runs a logging company and is a lifelong local, said he wants to provide affordable housing with 45 of his employees scattered among places such as Salem, Lebanon and Monroe.

Kathy Hensman, who also appears on the application, said they did a recent study that found no homes currently listed in Philomath for under $300,000 or any vacant land for sale under $99,000.

"We hope to remedy that situation with our development," Hensman said.

When such applications come in, city staff calculates the “highest, most intense use of the property.” As such, the “worst-case scenario” in the report shows 218 units made up of triplexes, although the property’s significant wetlands and Rock Creek waterline easement constraints are not taken into account.

Beelart’s proposal in the staff report includes a conceptual development of approximately 52 lots. But at the hearing, Beelart took the number down lower and estimated the construction of 30 to 40 single-family homes with the desire to keep lots in the 7,000 to 10,000-square-foot range.

Jim Minard, who retired as the city planner but has returned to work on contract until a replacement comes on board, was on hand to provide details on the process and respond to questions about the application.

“The city has known for decades this development would ultimately occur and planned for this event,” Minard said while reading the staff report. “The city has developed facility master plans for water, sewer, transportation, parks and storm drain that identify future needed infrastructure improvements required by population growth.”

According to the staff report, the city’s water and wastewater systems have adequate capacity to serve the development at maximum assumed density. The report also goes into detail on various requirements involving streets, stormwater and parks. It also stated that the Philomath School District would be able to accommodate another 114 students.

During the public hearing, three testified as opponents and six as neutral with none as proponents.

A recurring theme among those who testified revolved around how it would financially impact those who currently live in the area, including one resident who lives in a house that dates back to about 1930 and another who moved in several years ago as a single mother with three children.

Minard later addressed that specific issue.

“I think if I was a citizen in the audience and had a house on 12th Street, I would want to walk out of here with a little bit understanding or at least recognition that some of this development that’s occurred may bring in some of these issues and there could be real costs that are associated with it," he said. "There’s just no way of getting around it.”

Minard said there are costs and benefits on both sides.

“There are real ramifications on this and I know that’s what a lot of people are shaking their heads and they’re concerned about but that is a reality of life,” Minard said about costs. “My aunt got stuck in it 40 years ago when they put a street around her house and she didn’t know how she was going to pay it but she paid beaucoup bucks and then she sold her property for beaucoup bucks."

He later added, “There are real issues, there are real costs associated with that.”

Keeping the homes' purchase prices reasonable is on the minds of the developers.

"With all of the infrastructure that goes in, we're probably around 30-plus or minus single-family homes ranging from $250,000 to $300,000," Beelart said, later mentioning the range of 30 to 40 homes. "We've built three or four already on Houser Lane that are coming in at the same price ... We feel that's an affordable rate for housing in our neighborhood and that's our goal of what we want to do."

Beelart also emphasized his desire to keep the lots larger.

"We want these families to have a lot that has a backyard and someplace that you can have a play structure and grow up and have some room, not stacked in there like some of these that are back-to-back with no yards," he said. "Our goal is to make bigger lots and more family orientation out there."

Beelart said he and Hensman plan to develop, build and market the homes themselves with a construction schedule of five to 10 per year in phases over three to five years.

As far as population impacts, Beelart’s estimates of 30 to 40 homes would equate to just over 100 new residents while the city’s highest-density numbers add 545 persons — those based on an average household of 2.64 persons.

During the public hearing, other questions and comments that came up covered topics such as water supply, the undesired change of neighborhood character, a population increase and school impacts combined with other developments. There was also some debate over the use of the phrase "affordable housing" and how such projects often change from these early approvals as the process moves along.

Jeff Lamb, who closely follows city issues, said during his comments that there has been a public outcry to “call a timeout, a moratorium on any more development.”

A representative of the F Street Road District testified that there are approximately 105 residents on 12th Street and that about two years ago, 90 percent of them were not interested in developing the street up to city standards, which she added would not be an insignificant cost.

The same citizen also threw doubt on the developers' affordable housing wishes with a statement that older homes on smaller lots are selling in the price range that they're talking about with brand new homes on larger lots.

Rick Flacco testified as neutral and recommended that the city considers implementing development impact fees and construction excise taxes into city code based on how developments impact other services.

The discussion always led back to financial impacts for current residents, especially costs associated with bringing 12th Street up to city standards.

Chris Workman, city manager, tried to explain the process and how things play out with the F Street Road District and during the applicant's rebuttal, Beelart said 12th Street will need to be improved at some point in the future whether his development goes in or not.

Beelart said with the number of new homes going in, that would create $900,000 to $1 million in system development charges that go to the city.

Minard shared past history on street improvement debates in that area of town and the existence of a non-remonstrance agreement and how improvements and the associated fees would be delayed until it "got to that tipping point" to be brought up to city specifications.

The planning commission forwarded the application to the city council on a 5-1 vote (Lori Gibbs, Steve Boggs, Jeannine Gay, Mark Knutson and Jacque Lusk voted yes; David Stein voted no; Gary Conner absent).

The city council will meet Nov. 13 with another public hearing on the annexation application expected to be on the agenda.

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