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The city of Corvallis is embarking on a yearlong — or perhaps longer — project to try to fine-tune how it administers mixed-use zones on property inside the city limits.

Mixed-use usually refers to a blend of uses: for example, a housing complex that contains retail or commercial uses on the ground floor such as the Julian Hotel, the Renaissance or the Benton Plaza. Another example is the new Washington Yards complex going up at Seventh Street and Western Boulevard. It's a mixed-use employment project which will include more than 600 bedrooms of housing and a 500-vehicle garage as well as required commercial and industrial components.

The two properties that were combined to form the 4-acre Washington Yards parcel previously were zoned industrial, and the easiest path to including housing when redevelopment was proposed was to apply for a mixed-use zone. The zone change was approved in 2016 by the Corvallis Planning Commission, and the developers hope to open in the fall of 2020.

Other mixed zones that the city of Corvallis uses are central business, central business fringe, mixed-used commercial shopping, mixed-use general commercial, mixed-use residential, mixed-use transitional, neighborhood center and riverfront.

At Monday night’s Corvallis City Council meeting, councilors voted unanimously to initiate land development code and comprehensive plan text amendments on mixed-use zones. Possible questions to be answered during the process include how to find ways to include more housing downtown and whether mixed-use was intended to produce projects of the scope of Washington Yards. Neighbors say the complex is a bad fit for a location that already contains several large student housing complexes.

A new city committee will be formed to work on the project. No decision has been made on the number of members, but Paul Bilotta, community development director, said it will include members of other boards such as the Downtown Advisory Board, the Planning Commission and the Housing and Community Development Advisory Board.

Bilotta said that boards “with geographic or technical overlap with the downtown area” would be strong candidates to have members assigned to the new committee.

Bilotta told councilors that it would be difficult for a current board to take on the workload that the mixed-use zoning project will require.

“The Planning Commission will always deal with projects like this,” Bilotta said, “but if they get 25 (land-use) applications they are out of the loop for months.”

Bilotta said he hopes that the mixed-use work can be completed by June 2020 to meet the goals of the city’s strategic operational plan.

With this year's strategic plan, Bilotta said, "we introduced a concept of taking on one big LDC (land development code) text update and one comprehensive plan/zoning mapping effort per year for the community to focus on,” Bilotta said. “This year, we put forth mixed-use zones as the text update project because (they) have been identified as needing another look from a lot of sources. … That level of interest in the topic across the city made it rise to the top.”

Bilotta added that he plans to come “back to the council one more time before things kick off to outline the details on how the project will run, including timeline, community engagement process, and stakeholder roles.”

No date has been set for that council update.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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