The city of Corvallis has identified land that it hopes it can rezone for high-density use.
The city has been working on an update of its buildable lands inventory, which is a requirement of state land-use planning laws. The BLI project will help guide Corvallis land use and growth for the next two decades. During the BLI process the city was advised by the state that it had a deficit of 12 acres of land zoned for high-density use (RS-20), which usually means apartments, duplexes and townhouses, but is not limited to those housing types.
At its Monday night meeting the Corvallis City Council directed city staff to move forward with a process that would rezone approximately 94 acres of land for high density to help both meet the state goal and allow for future growth.
“One of the first questions we had for the City Council in this process was whether their intent was to just meet the state minimums or whether they wanted us to do something more to try and work to solve some of the housing challenges the community has,” said Paul Bilotta, community development director. “The council said that they wanted to try to make a difference in housing, so that is how we have proceeded.”
Here is a look at the four sites the city has chosen:
• A 51.4 acre site in South Corvallis along Highway 99W. The Corvallis Industrial Park property was rezoned from industrial use to RS-9 — medium-density housing — in 2016.
• A 15-acre plot consisting of two parcels south of Wake Robin Avenue. The Corvallis Industrial Park and Wake Robin properties are contiguous, although three different property owners are involved. The Wake Robin properties are zoned for light industrial/office.
• A 26-acre parcel called the McFadden Ranch in northeast Corvallis between the HP Inc. campus and the city’s Public Works complex. The property currently is zoned general industrial.
• A 3.3-acre plot at the intersection of Northeast Circle Boulevard and Walnut Boulevard just north of HP. The land also is currently zoned general industrial.
The Wake Robin and Corvallis Industrial Park sites are within the proposed boundary for the urban renewal district in South Corvallis. Property tax proceeds from new housing development within the district are expected to help pay for the affordable housing, street infrastructure and neighborhood town center projects that supporters of the district hope to bring to fruition. The district is scheduled to go to the voters in March.
Bilotta emphasized that despite the high-density RS-20 zone “does not necessarily mean all apartment buildings. It has a minimum density, but largely similar uses to what is allowed in RS-9. So single family, duplex, townhomes, group residential, group care, etc., are all possible choices in addition to condominiums and apartments.
“In fact, our housing variety requirements encourage a diversity of housing types. So, this area could develop a lot of different ways per code. You could see something like a tiny house village, cluster housing or the CoHo Ecovillage if the property owners wanted to go that way.”
Bilotta said the four sites were chosen because they fit city goals of a “compact, well-planned city and encouraging housing with a lower carbon footprint.
“These sites … are all within easy walking distance of both employment areas and existing or planned commercial centers. They also have good access to transit service. If a city doesn’t preserve those vacant lands with unique qualities ahead of time, even if it might be more than the projected 20-year supply, you can get stuck in future years trying to wedge high-density residential into areas that are already developed or not as well situated.”
Bilotta said that the wedging, or infill problem, is exactly what happened in the areas north of Oregon State University, particularly in Ward 5, which bore more than its share of the OSU enrollment growth that followed the Great Recession.
“Decades ago,” Bilotta said, “the community didn’t reserve any vacant land for high-density residential near the campus and then applied the high-density zone across existing single-family neighborhoods. That sort of strategy is a very painful and wasteful way for a community to provide for its high-density needs because it involves significant disruption of established neighborhoods, loss of community history and (demolition of) a lot of functional housing stock.”
The comprehensive plan map changes and text amendments must go through a public process before the City Council can consider finalizing them. Neighborhood meetings must be held, and the Planning Commission also must chime in. Bilotta estimated that the project should be back in the hands of the City Council by the spring 2019.
Final approval of the completed BLI is expected to follow soon after the map and text changes.