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Corvallis backs massive land annexation
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Corvallis backs massive land annexation

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Here is a view from the intersection of Willow and 53rd Street of the Marys Annexation property. The Corvallis City Council tentatively approved an annexation agreement that if finalized would bring the 118 acres into the city's stock of land.

The Corvallis City Council moved closer to approving one of the largest developments in the city in at least a decade.

Councilors voted unanimously on Monday night to tentatively move forward with an annexation agreement for 118 acres of property near the 53rd Street roundabout.

The decision, which still requires the council to approve formal findings at a future meeting, likely means housing — perhaps more than 1,000 units of it — will be built on the property. It would be the largest single development in Corvallis in at least a decade.

In recent years the largest developments have been student housing, including the Retreat (approximately 1,000 bedrooms), Domain Corvallis (approximately 900 bedrooms) and the Sierra complex at Washington Yards (approximately 700 bedrooms).

In terms of single-family construction the Ponderosa Ridge development, currently in progress in northwest Corvallis, consists of just 275 units. It remains to be seen how many units ultimately will be developed in the 200 or so acres in the Timberhill area above Kings Boulevard.

The council held a public hearing on the Marys Annexation at its June 21 meeting, but requests to hold the record open and to allow property owner David Lin to make a final argument postponed deliberations until Monday.

The key issue remains transportation, with community members expressing concerns about traffic impacts on West Hills Road, which forms the southern border of the property. Lin is planning an additional collector street that would connect 53rd Street with 35th Street via Sagebrush Drive in the Retreat student housing complex, but councilors were adamant that the new road, or at least a bike-pedestrian path, should be a high priority.

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Community Development Director Paul Bilotta advised councilors during deliberations that it is up to them when to require the road’s construction.

Several steps must be taken before Lin can build, or even seek permits to build. Only the annexation agreement was being considered Monday. Lin wants to develop the property with city codes and infrastructure, which means the property had to be annexed into the city’s stock of land.

The annexation agreement approach is a new process for the city. Corvallis had sent all annexations to the voters from 1977 until a 2016 state law limited the city’s ability to do so. The record was closed before Monday’s deliberations, but three residents members used the community comments segment of the meeting to express concerns about the annexation agreement process and the dangers of moving forward with a development as large as Lin’s without an updated area plan for that part of the city.

An amendment was proposed by Ward 4 Councilor Gabe Shepherd that would have established deadlines for the road construction based upon the phases of Lin’s preliminary building model. It failed on a 6-2 vote as most councilors thought Bilotta’s comments on the council’s discretion in the matter made the amendment moot.

“Our housing inventory is insufficient and we have a lot of problems because of that,” said Ward 3’s Hyatt Lytle in supporting the annexation.

Jan Napack, in whose Ward 1 the development would occur, backed it, but with some cautionary comments.

“There is almost unprecedented growth going on in this part of the city,” she said. “We’re going to have to be very careful going forward.”

When it reviews formal findings at either its Aug. 2 or Aug. 16 meeting the council will consider three ordinances, one to annex the property, one to apply city zone designations and one to remove the property from the Corvallis Rural Fire Protection District.

The council’s decision can be appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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