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The Philomath Planning Commission set aside general zoning code discussions to focus solely on annexation criteria during its meeting last Tuesday night and ended the evening with plans to proceed deeper down a path that could ultimately lead to the implementation of new requirements for applicants.

Planning commissioners and city staff stressed that the evening's discussions were "very preliminary" following comments from audience members who had expressed concern over what they saw as pending changes and possible adoption of something that could impact general livability.

Amy Cook, deputy city attorney, said on several occasions that a list of annexation criteria to consider that was included in their packets represented only a starting point — a "conversation starter."

The list of annexation criteria to consider covered a wide range of topics and most of them will be brought back to the planning commission for discussion. A few were close enough in scope to lump together and a few others were dismissed entirely.

Among them, City Manager Chris Workman stressed the importance of a suggestion to add into the criteria a requirement for an annexation applicant to illustrate how the property's addition would benefit the city.

"This is new, this is something we've heard from citizens and the city attorney's office to really push an annexation must be to the benefit of a community and be specific in an annexation agreement. ... It really makes the applicant submit some type of narrative and commit to what it is they're going to do," Workman said.

Workman said such an agreement would get an annexation closer to benefit the city, not just the property owner.

All six commissioners had several comments and observations to set the stage for what could be a lively discussion at their March 18 regular meeting. The commissioners will actually meet next on March 4 to discuss the proposed zoning code changes that were skipped over at the Feb. 19 meeting.

Annexation criteria topics to be discussed at the March 18 meeting include:

• The annexation must be of benefit to the community.

• Inventory of known contaminants and how they will be abated by the applicant.

• Requirement for a Phase 1 environment assessment if the property had been zoned at any time for industrial or agricultural purposes. Also, to categorize annexations and which criteria would apply based on the developable land.

• Annexation agreement to include the impact of development on city services (including police, library, buses, etc.), school district and on parks and other amenities.

• Annexation agreement to require development over a certain number of acres to occur in phases and tie the development to water and sewer capacity.

• Annexations that include existing development must have safe pedestrian routes to school with a specified number of days.

• Restrict rezoning of annexed property for 20 years.

Four criteria cited in the list involve state statute requirements, such as annexations must be located entirely within an urban growth boundary and be contiguous to the city limits, to name a few.

Workman made it clear that the lists of criteria options were not staff recommendations but potential items for commissioners to consider.

"This is just criteria we're putting out there that you can put on annexations if you choose to," Workman said. "If your intent is to speed up annexations and speed up growth, then yeah, you don't want these. If your intent is to tap the brakes and slow things down," then they should be considered.

Commissioner David Stein proposed an additional criteria topic to discuss a requirement for developers to pay for studies that the city feels would be appropriate. That's nothing new, but Stein takes it a step further.

"I would like to see language which requires the developers to pay for traffic and environmental and whatever studies we feel are necessary, but the city will pick who does the studies and manage the studies, not the developer," Stein said.

Workman said that will fit into the code language discussion to occur at the next meeting rather than annexation criteria.

Any future code and criteria changes made will first go through a process that includes the staff preparing language, city commission review, a proposed amending ordinance and a public hearing with notification to the public and stakeholders.

Six citizens spoke during the public comment period with concerns over possible changes.

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