Over the past couple of years, development, zoning and annexation discussions before the Philomath City Council have taken on a contentious tone.
The latest of these to take center stage for councilors involves the application submitted by Levi Beelart and Kathy Hensman to annex into the city 19.88 acres located on North 12th Street in the northern section of the city’s urban growth boundary.
Following a public hearing on Nov. 13, the city council delayed a vote on the application and held the record open to accept additional written testimony. After receiving comments from 10 individuals in opposition, including future city council members Marion Dark and Terry Weiss, and getting a few other questions answered, the council passed the first reading of an ordinance to annex the property on a 6-1 vote.
Mayor-elect and current councilor Eric Niemann opposed the ordinance and since the vote was not unanimous, a second reading is required for passage. Since the city council was apparently meeting for the last time in December, it appeared that the issue might fall into the laps of the revamped council, which includes individuals that have expressed vocal and written opposition to the annexation.
Instead, outgoing city councilor Jerry Jackson made a motion for a second city council meeting to occur this month so the application could be approved. That motion also passed on a 6-1 vote and the second reading is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Beelart shared a conceptual plan for the property to eventually build 45 to 55 single-family homes on the site. The city creates staff reports on applications with the most-intense use of the property outlined. 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.
William Patton of Streamline Engineering, writing on behalf of Beelart and Hensman, addressed submitted comments in the applicant’s rebuttal.
“When the applicant submitted their application for this annexation, they did it with the criteria to get this approved and I think that’s what we should be paying attention to,” Jackson said. “It made it through the application, it made it through the staff report, it made it through the planning commission and now it’s time for us to approve this.”
Edmonds backed that up to add that he saw nothing significant to say that the applicant had not met the criteria.
However, Niemann shared an opposing viewpoint that he believes there has been a range of different topics that don’t necessarily meet the criteria. In particular, Niemann referred to transportation issues and believes inconclusive statements were included in the findings of fact.
Mayor Rocky Sloan said those types of questions would be addressed in a future development plan review but Niemann said transportation was among the criteria to be considered in an annexation.
After several moments of silence, Niemann added that the applicant’s rebuttal included nothing relative to those street improvement questions.
“This is in light of over 200 signatures of people in the F Street District indicating their desire not to have the street improved,” Niemann said. “That’s a pretty big miss, I kinda think, in terms of rebuttal.”
Sloan said it would be an issue for future planning commissioners and city councilors with the option of denying a development if they’re not happy with what’s going on with the streets. However, Niemann believed it was a question to consider immediately with his interpretation of the criteria.
City Manager Chris Workman said the criteria covers the transportation question and if there are plans to address it in the case of any future development. But Workman said those questions are answered in the city’s transportation system plan, which outlines the full development of North 12th Street and additional connectivity.
“The staff’s report conclusion is that there is planning in place for the street build-out in this area of town, or in this property, should it be annexed into the city,” Workman said.
The land is located in Philomath’s established urban growth boundary and adjacent to the current city limits.
“For me, it’s understanding the fact that we have two things going on here,” Edmonds said. “I understand the concerns of the F Road District and I think they’re very valid concerns, but at the same time, that’s a separate issue from the annexation that’s being requested to the city. Whether it’s today or 10 years or 20 years from now, the F Road District and the city working together will have to resolve what’s going on out there at some point in time.”
After more discussion, Jackson made a motion to adopt the findings of fact, which passed 6-1 with Niemann voting nay.
With the findings of fact adopted, the council could then vote on approving an ordinance to accept the annexation. City Attorney Jim Brewer was asked what would happen if the second reading of the ordinance would come before the new city council in January.
“The new council is entitled to vote on that,” Brewer said. “It would mean that the new councilors would need to read through the materials so they that are able to vote. But in terms of the ordinance itself, people who have not familiarized themselves with it may still vote.”
Jackson asked Brewer that if the new council did vote down the ordinance, which seemed likely considering at least three of the incoming members have publicly opposed either this or other land decisions within the past year, could that be a liability for the city.
“If they vote no, then they would need to adopt findings to support a no vote,” Brewer said.
Responding to councilor David Low’s question expressing a more clear picture of potential liability, Brewer said, “It’s not a liability in terms of we’re going to be sued for money damages. Are there costs to the city if the decision is appealed? Of course, there are and we’ll want to be careful in particular because you don’t want to have something that is reversed and that we end up paying the other side’s attorneys fees on.”
The ordinance’s first reading then passed on a 6-1 roll-call vote with Niemann’s nay.
Jackson asked for a second December meeting for a second reading on the ordinance, which was approved to occur Wednesday.
The second reading does not have to be unanimous and requires only a majority to be enacted.
In other news from the Dec. 10 meeting:
• The mayor and city manager recognized seven individuals who completed the second citizens’ academy — Terry Brunton, Matt Coen, Tharwat Ghaly, Chas Jones, Darleen Root, Lisa Watkins and Peggy Yoder.
• Outgoing city council members Jackson, Charla Koeppe and Candy Koetz were recognized for their service and Sloan received a key to the city for his years as a city councilor and mayor.
• The city council approved on a 6-0 vote a strategic plan for fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2023. Workman provided a summary of the plan, which revolves around five primary themes — governance, economy, infrastructure, neighborhoods and safety. Each theme is then broken down into specific goals. Workman believes the document provides “good guidance as the city moves forward.”
• The city council discussed nominations for the annual Samaritan Awards, which will take place Feb. 6.
• City Recorder Ruth Post said there has been substantial interest in vacant seats on the planning commission, budget committee, park advisory board and tree board. For those interested in receiving more information or applying, call 541-929-6148, email Post at to email@example.com, or stop by City Hall.