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Philomath City Hall artwork

The Philomath City Council delayed a vote on a 19.88-acre annexation application during a heavily-attended meeting Nov. 13 at City Hall.

The applicant, Levi Beelart, said the conceptual plan for the property is to build 45 to 55 single-family homes on the site — a range that’s about 15 homes higher than what he had estimated during a hearing at the planning commission level.

The property is located on North 12th Street in the northern section of the city’s urban growth boundary. The proposed development has significant space constraints because of protected wetlands and riparian corridors.

Following testimony from 14 individuals during a public hearing, the city council voted 6-1 to keep the record open on the application. Several citizens had made that request of their city leaders during the hearing.

Beelart, a Philomath resident who operates a logging construction company, said one of the intents behind the development is to try to provide affordable housing for employees, many of whom must commute to work at a distance from other communities.

The city creates staff reports on such applications with the most-intense use of the property. On the Beelart property, that would be 218 units made up of triplexes. The staff report went through several details involving topics such as water, sewer, streets, parks, schools and other impacts.

Beelart purchased the property earlier this year as an opportunity to expand on the housing options in town. He believes the sale price of the homes can be in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range, well below what the market is currently seeing for what would be considered comparable housing.

Bill Patton, civil engineer for the applicant, emphasized a few points during their presentation and highlighted details with a map of the site. Patton said the property has been “long anticipated to be annexed” and that “all of the city’s master plans deal with this property. These plans have been in place for a long time.”

During the public hearing, eight citizens testified as opponents of the project. There were six others that testified as neutral parties and none as proponents.

Among the most common concerns brought up by the opponents and neutral citizens:

• Fears over the potential costs to residents and taxpayers because of street and sidewalk improvements, including retirees that may be priced out of the community.

• Neighborhood livability, quality of life and population impacts.

• Habitat impacts, including threats to endangered species and wetlands control.

• Perceived negative impacts on water supply.

• Requests to hold the record open on the annexation until an impact analysis can be done on projects that have already been approved.

• Views that the application has not met applicable criteria.

• A suggestion that the city considers additional criteria and impact analyses in development code.

Following the closure of public testimony and the applicant’s rebuttal, councilor Jerry Jackson made a motion to close the record with that vote failing. The vote on keeping the record open then passed.

The Nov. 27 deadline was determined based on the amount of time needed for the applicant’s seven-day rebuttal period and amount of time needed to get packets out to councilors leading up to their Dec. 10 meeting.

Councilors expressed the desire to receive more information from city staff and anyone from the public on several topics, including facts surrounding Philomath’s capacities with water.

“The public’s testimony is very much at odds from what we have in findings of fact and the staff report,” councilor David Low said about water, adding that he just wants a better understanding of the issue.

Mayor Rocky Sloan said the water issue has been a topic for years and defended numbers that have been provided the city’s contracted engineering company.

“It doesn’t behoove any kind of company no matter what business you’re in to lie about numbers or do a bad job because how does that further your company or bring you back customers if you’ve screwed the pooch on some math problems on capacities and what pipes can handle and what a water plant can produce?” Sloan said.

“You have to trust the company and I will say there’s distrust amongst a lot of citizens,” he added. “They think they’re doctored numbers and speculations get thrown out there and they come to be true to some people and that is my experience the last 10 years.”

Low followed up by saying that it’s important to go the extra mile to alleviate that mistrust. City Manager Chris Workman said numbers from the city’s perspective will be available through the water master plan that was recently updated.

Niemann said he wanted to see more information on what “fair share” means in relation to road improvements that would be needed and how that translates into system development charges that would be anticipated for the property.

Other councilors wanted more details on topics such as traffic impacts and possible alternatives, school enrollment capacities, details involving the F Street Road District and input from the fire district on possible emergency response concerns in that part of town.

In other news from the Nov. 13 meeting:

• Tara Kemp of Pauly Rogers & Co. went over the city’s annual fiscal audit and reported good results with no problems to councilors.

• The city council passed several amendments for ordinances involving the Shonnard, Main Street Island residential properties and 3157 Main St., annexations, as well as the sale of tobacco products and smoking in public places.

• The city council passed a resolution to support a proposed Special Transportation Area designation involving a section U.S. 20/OR 34 through downtown Philomath. In general, the designation represents a way for communities to get a clear agreement from the Oregon Department of Transportation to manage a portion of the state highway as a main street.

• Workman announced a public reception for 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at City Hall to recognize the outgoing mayor, city council members and other volunteers on various city committees.

• Workman announced that a new city planner, Patrick Depa, has been hired. Depa is employed by Benton County and Philomath, Adair Village and Monroe have separate agreements for his services.

• Police Chief Ken Rueben said Jacob Coon, recently hired to join the local department, will be sworn in Dec. 3 and that he will start at the state police academy on Dec. 10.

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