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Bellfountain Road

A couple of vehicles head north on Bellfountain Road Thursday morning, a route that will become more heavily used in the future if two housing developments on Chapel Drive materialize.

(Editor's note: The story below has been updated with corrected information about the status of the subdivision application. Unless there is an appeal, subdivision applications do not go to the city council with the planning commission vote being final. In an update from the story below, City Manager Chris Workman said a revised transportation impact analysis has been submitted and posted on the city's website for public view). 

The Philomath Planning Commission approved the Newton Creek subdivision preliminary plat with conditions during its Nov. 19 meeting.

Before the commissioners voted, they asked for more information from H&R Homes Development on traffic impacts along with plans for developing park space.

The traffic impacts that could be seen with the 53-home subdivision combined with other projects on the horizon dominated the discussion. In particular, commissioner David Stein challenged H&R Homes Development over a traffic impact analysis that failed to go beyond 2020.

Mark Grenz of Multi/Tech Engineering, who was representing H&R Homes, said the document adheres to the required development code but also told the commissioners that it would not be a problem to go back and ask its contracted traffic engineer to take the analysis out another 10 years.

Stein expressed the desire to keep the record open and not vote on the application at all, but when it became clear that others on the board favored the option of attaching conditions, he relented.

"Personally, I would rather keep the record open because I think it's better to have more information earlier than later. That's my rationale," Stein said.

Stein's argument revolved around what he perceived as unrealistic traffic numbers because other developments that have been approved were not reflected in the report.

"I would like to see an analysis that goes at least 10 years out and would like to see it explicitly stated how much traffic is being contributed by which development," Stein said. "The Millpond development, which you just heard is much higher density, that's going to be a whopper along with your proposed development. ... I want to see actual estimates of how much traffic that's going to be and I want to see how it figures into your traffic engineer's final results."

The Millpond Crossing development involves the construction of up to 166 homes on a 31.23-acre site located north of Chapel Drive and between 15th and 19th streets.

Gordon Kurtz, an associate engineer with Benton County Public Works, agreed with Stein's wishes for more data and told commissioners that he would also expect the traffic impact analysis to reflect growth at least 10 years out.

Benton County currently does not have any specific TIA requirements, although there are proposed changes pending.

"I think some additional analysis and additional data gathering, analysis primarily, is warranted," Kurtz advised. "I put this at your feet because our code does not require this sort of thing so it's a decision that you all will have to make."

Kurtz also noted that the developments would have a multi-jurisdictional impact on not only Philomath and Benton County, but also Corvallis. The likely route from the subdivision to Corvallis would be Chapel Drive to Bellfountain Road to Plymouth Drive to 53rd Street and points north.

Kurtz especially showed concern over what the traffic would look like on Plymouth Drive.

"It's not built for that kind of traffic and it isn't wide enough, it does not have substantial shoulders, there's a fairly tight set of curves in it," he said. "I don't think it's beyond the pale to ask that maybe Plymouth be considered in this traffic impact analysis also based on projected growth 10 years out."

A lefthand turn lane to be located somewhere on Chapel is another point worth considering, Kurtz added.

City Manager Chris Workman added the clarification that the TIA will not only calculate traffic involving recently approved projects but also property that may or may not come into the city and be developed.

"Even though the property isn't developed, it's still going to recognize that it's a residential zone and it's going to account for that future traffic at some point," Workman said.

The public hearing included testimony from one opponent, who had concerns on increased traffic and demands on the city’s water resources. The one neutral party testifying was Kurtz and there were no proponents.

The other condition of approval added called for H&R Homes to either develop required park facilities or pay the city to make those future improvements, which could be trails or parkland.

Also during his comments, Kurtz mentioned the county's plans for a multi-use path to run along the north side of Chapel Drive from Bellfountain Road to 13th Street. Obviously, the county wouldn't want any of the development plans to impede the path's construction.

Right-of-way or easement agreements will be needed along the route. The county does not currently have construction or property acquisition funds secured.

"We will have to negotiate with the school district at some point in the future; we will probably have to accommodate them in some regard to make sure that their cross-country track isn't majorly impacted by our proposal," Kurtz said. "But these are the long-term plans and I need to make sure that the frontage along this property accommodates that multi-use path."

Grenz said their plans do show the easement for the multi-use path along Chapel Drive.

The motion to approve the application with the conditions added passed on a 4-1 vote (Stein nay, Jeannine Gay, Jacque Lusk absent).

In a separate public hearing, the commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the city council deny a rezoning application involving 9.9 acres beyond Landmark Drive.

Barbara, Ron and Norman Hartz submitted the rezoning application with the belief that the property would become more useful as high-density residential instead of its current industrial designation.

Barb Hartz said she could envision patio homes, multi-level apartments or senior housing on the 9.9 acres, which the family has owned for 40 years, but also added, “We are not proposing any specific development.”

According to the staff report, city officials “reviewed this request repeatedly with the applicants and raised serious concern with the location … being surrounded by industrial lands” and recommended denial.

Ron Hartz went through the findings of fact and commented with viewpoints in opposition to several details outlined in the report.

In the public hearing, four testified in opposition and two others as neutral parties. There were no proponents. Following the comments, the Hartzes opted to not provide rebuttal comments and the following day, withdrew the application entirely.

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Editor