The Corvallis City Council will consider a major land-use case at its 6 p.m. meeting Monday.
An annexation agreement between city staff and property owner David Lin will be considered during a limited public hearing at the beginning of Monday’s session.
Lin owns 118 acres at the northeast corner of Southwest West Hills Road and 53rd Street. The land currently is used as a tree farm, but Lin hopes to build housing on the property. Several steps must be taken before Lin can build — or even before Lin can seek permits to build.
Full development of the property could add more than 1,000 units of housing — and perhaps more than 2,000.
Lin wants to develop the property with city codes and infrastructure, which means the property must be annexed into the city’s stock of land. Attempts to do this were “tentatively denied” Feb. 18, 2018, on a pair of 6-2 votes by the council, which directed Lin to work on an annexation agreement.
Key items that councilors said they wanted covered in the agreement are transportation access, transportation safety, the density and scale of the development and stormwater issues.
That agreement, which has been under discussion and review since that 2018 denial, is what is before the council Monday night. Any decisions on what might be built on the property and what the development looks like would be considered later if the annexation is approved.
“The purpose of the proposed annexation agreement is to address the City Council’s concerns and outline the developer’s obligations regarding the timing and provision of certain public improvements, including streets and utility infrastructure and the possibility of a new neighborhood park, as those public improvements relate to private development of the property,” said Jason Yaich, the city’s Planning Division manager.
The neighbors share the concerns raised by councilors and city staff. In a statement released by West Hills Neighborhood Association President Blair Girard, the neighbors mentioned issues such as transportation infrastructure and particularly how the growth the development would produce might affect the city’s transportation system plan.
Neighbors also noted that the annexation agreement is a new tool that the city is using to address boundary growth. Starting in 1977, Corvallis sent all annexations to the voters until a new state law, signed in 2016, limited voter-approved annexations.
Only one Corvallis annexation, which was driven by sewer issues on Northeast Lawndale Place and included just five parcels, has gone to the voters since then. It was approved in November, 2016. The council approved a 17-acre annexation of property north of the Samaritan Health Services campus in 2018.
“The new policy,” notes the West Hills neighbors, “is for city staff to negotiate directly with developers behind closed doors and then ask for council approval on such agreements. It is imperative that the city councilors be a careful watchdog on behalf of the voters, and thoroughly scrutinize these agreements. The neighborhood association was not able to review annexation agreement drafts or to offer any input during negotiations.
“And because of this internal, behind-closed-doors process, we need council more than ever to make sure that residents’ concerns are heard. An annexation of this size, and the ensuing development that would follow, has the potential to either positively impact our city as a whole, or to negatively impact it.”
Property owner Lin provided testimony of his own to support the agreement in the city staff report (see the website for the full text). Lin said that his development would be in four phases and that the early phases would have little or no impact on traffic on West Hills Road, a key concern of the neighbors. He also promised a new east-west collector street that would run through the development and connect 53rd Street with 35th Street.
“The city of Corvallis has a need for houses and apartments,” Lin wrote. “Increasing the availability of houses and apartments will help reduce house prices and rental costs.”