Sometimes in a democracy it’s a matter of who shows up and votes.
On June 17 the Corvallis City Council voted 4-3 to deny a request from a developer to rezone approximately 6 acres of land at the intersection of Southwest 53rd Street and Country Club Drive. The developer of the so-called Carson Map Amendment wanted to increase the zoning from low density (RS-6) to high density (RS-20) to allow for apartments to be constructed.
Monday night at the downtown fire station councilors considered formal findings that would conclude the land use case. Most of the time, the action is routine. Not this time.
When the six councilors present split on a 3-3 vote, it thrust Mayor Biff Traber into a rare role a a voting member of the council. He broke the tie by voting yes.
Here’s how it happened: Ward 6 Councilor Nancy Wyse was not present June 17, but she led the charge for approval on Monday night, citing the need to act now on the city’s housing supply challenge. Wyse said she had reviewed the video of earlier discussions and visited the site. Ward 3’s Hyatt Lytle, who missed the council’s June 3 public hearing on the application, chose not to participate in either vote.
Complicating matters was that Ward 8’s Ed Junkins, who voted for denial on June 17 and Ward 7’s Bill Glassmire, who voted to approve at the first reading, were not present Monday.
The result was the 3-3 tie, with Ward 2’s Charles Maughan and Ward 9’s Andrew Struthers voting with Wyse to overturn the earlier decision. Jan Napack (Ward 1), Barbara Bull (Ward 4) and Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5) voted to reject the plan.
Traber agreed with Wyse, noting “we do have a housing shortage. Clearly there is a need. And this seems an appropriate place to do this.”
The vote directs staff to produce new findings for the Aug. 5 meeting. Depending on who is on hand at that meeting, the matter could flip again.
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In other action:
• Councilors took their first action toward implementing the urban renewal district for South Corvallis. City voters overwhelmingly approved formation of the district in March.
Councilors voted unanimously to approve a request from Benton County for a member of the county Board of Commissioners to join the Urban Renewal Agency that will guide the work on the district.
An Urban Renewal Agency generally consists of the members of the City Council, but no statute requires that. In addition to the Benton County representative, Traber also will be part of the group, although there is no guarantee that he will chair the 11-member group.
No date has been set for the group’s first meeting, with Kate Porsche, the manager for the joint city-county economic development office, noting during her presentation on the issue that it likely will be three to five years before any major projects get underway.
• Councilors heard the annual report of the Corvallis Budget Commission, the 18-member body — nine councilors and nine citizen members — that makes a recommendation on the city’s annual spending plan.
Chair Curtis Wright delivered the report and noted that this was his final such briefing. For now. Wright has chaired or vice-chaired the commission for the past nine years and cannot be reappointed.
However, while noting that is has been “his pleasure and privilege to serve” as the commission’s chair he said he would welcome a return engagement in the future if the “City Council wants me back.”