The Corvallis City Council on Monday night unanimously rejected appeals by neighbors of a planned housing development in northwest Corvallis.
The 8-0 vote at the downtown fire station upheld a 6-1 decision Aug. 16 by the city’s Planning Commission to approve the 274-lot Ponderosa Ridge project, which is planned for 85 acres south of Ponderosa Avenue and northwest of Walnut Boulevard.
Neighbors who appealed the Planning Commission vote can choose to take the issue to the state Land Use Board of Appeals once formal findings in the case are acted upon by the council at its Dec. 4 meeting.
Key concerns of the neighbors were:
• Traffic and safety issues generated by the development in the Skyline West neighborhood.
• Where some of the 66 townhomes in the project should be located.
• Whether a bridge should be built over Lamprey Creek in the middle of the project’s open space.
• Light pollution.
• Whether the city used the correct criteria when analyzing the developer’s application.
The only topic that generated much traction with the council was the traffic issue. Councilors held a lengthy discussion on the practicality of adding signs that would say “local access only” or “no through traffic” on Ponderosa to deter motorists from using Skyline West streets as an alternate route to get to Walnut.
Concerns were raised during the council deliberations as to whether such signs would be enforceable — and whether it made good sense for the Corvallis Police Department to use its patrol time write citations for such actions.
Eventually councilors adopted an amendment that accepted the suggestion of the developers, The Holt Group of Vancouver, Washington. The developers offered to provide safety striping on Ponderosa, a stop sign where Northwest Royal Oaks Drive will meet the extended Northwest Fair Oaks Drive and signs that encourage motorists to “share the road.”
Councilors Penny York (Ward 1), Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3), Barbara Bull (Ward 4), Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5), Nancy Wyse (Ward 6), Bill Glassmire (Ward 7), Mark Page (Ward 8) and Hal Brauner (Ward 9) voted to deny the appeal. Roen Hogg of Ward 2, who was not present for the Oct. 2 public hearing, did not participate in the deliberations.
“The Planning Commission did a good job on this one,” York said, “and we need to give the message that if a project follows the rules, we’re going to move forward and increase the housing in this city.”
Bull addressed the criteria issue: The application was considered using the mid-1990s land development code because that was when the original conceptual development plan for the property, then known as Suncrest, was approved.
“I agree with many of the arguments (of opponents), but the rules govern here,” she said. “It is awkward that we are using old code, but this is the only reasonable interpretation of the rules.”
Glassmire, meanwhile, had concerns that went beyond the age of the code.
“I am disturbed that the language in the land development code is so hard to read,” he said. “It bothers me that ordinary people like me can’t get at it and understand it.”
The Ponderosa Ridge project, a continuation under new ownership of the earlier two-phased 96-lot Suncrest development to the east, will add a mix of single-family detached homes and duplexes on a swath of land that straddles the multiuse path that runs from Martin Luther King Jr. Park to Northwest Ponderosa Avenue. The 274 lots is a 47 percent reduction from the 516 approved under the earlier conceptual development plan.
Northwest Ponderosa Avenue will be upgraded, and Northwest Fair Oaks Drive will be extended into Skyline West, giving residents of that neighborhood another exit route in case of fire. A total of 33 acres will remain open space, and the path will not be affected.