Oregon State University’s bid to build a new dormitory at the east end of the campus won another tough battle Monday night before the Corvallis City Council.
Councilors voted 5-4 to approve formal findings in the development sector swap application, which required city approval before the university could move forward with a 290-bedroom upper division and graduate student housing project near the intersection of Monroe Avenue and Ninth Street.
The eight councilors on hand split 4-4 on the findings, with Mayor Biff Traber, who only votes to break ties, casting the deciding yes vote in favor of the OSU plan. The vote had been 6-2 in favor of the swap at the Aug. 19 session on a compromise amendment put forward by Ward 3 Councilor Hyatt Lytle.
But that was Aug. 19. On Monday night, Charles Maughan (Ward 2), Jan Napack (Ward 1) and Barbara Bull (Ward 4) joined Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5) on the opposition side. Maughan, Napack and Bull had voted the other way earlier. Ed Junkins (Ward 8), Andrew Struthers (Ward 9) joined Lytle, with Nancy Wyse (Ward 6) flipping her vote of the 19th from no to yes.
Because the vote was not unanimous, a second reading will be required at the Oct. 7 meeting.
Traber, who has been thrust into a voting role quite often in recent months because of some knotty land-use cases, said he voted in favor of the OSU plan because the student housing is needed and the location was appropriate.
Opponents have expressed concerns about the loss of open space at the gateway to the campus.
The university, which is divided for planning purposes into nine sectors, applied to move 95,000 square feet of development space from Sector B, in the center of campus, to Sector D at the east end of campus at the intersection of Monroe and Ninth. OSU also wanted to shift 10,000 square feet of open space (approximately the size of a single-family residential lot) from Sector D to the adjoining Sector C in the campus core, but Lytle’s amendment at the Aug. 19 meeting eliminated that piece.
In another high-wattage land-use matter councilors voted 5-3 to reject the Caldwell Farms annexation agreement created to address a 16.45-acre parcel west of the 53rd Street roundabout. Developers hope to add the plot to the city’s stock of land and build housing on it.
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Voting to reject the agreement were Ellis, Bull, Napack, Junkins and Lytle. Wyse, Maughan and Struthers voted yes.
Opponents cited the possible use of the legal — but controversial tool — of eminent domain and concerns about safety issues because the property would have just one entrance and exit route. However, any eminent domain action would require council approval and city code already covers requirements for entrances and exits.
Councilors held a limited public hearing Aug. 19 on the proposed annexation but because of requests to hold the record open an additional seven days, councilors did not deliberate until Monday.
The annexation agreement process is a new one for Corvallis, which used to handle annexations with a public vote. But a 2016 state law limited the city’s ability to send annexations to the voters, and Corvallis chose to move forward by having the developer work with city staff to bring a potential agreement to the council. Meanwhile, the city’s challenge to the new law, supported by the League of Oregon Cities and Philomath, remains before the courts.
Neighborhood opponents cited traffic concerns on West Hills Road, wetlands issues, and eminent domain for infrastructure while also criticizing the council for moving forward on the annexation proposal before a new area plan for the region is completed.
Also at the meeting:
• Councilors unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with Benton County and the bylaws for the Housing, Opportunity, Planning and Equity (HOPE) board that will lead the city-county effort to address homelessness (see the website for the full text of the documents). In addition, the council confirmed Maughan and Napack to be the city representatives on the seven-member executive committee that will steer the work of the advisory board.
The Benton County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take similar action at its noon meeting Tuesday.
• A new system was in place to govern capacity at the downtown fire station. Fire code notes a maximum of 73 persons for the room, counting councilors and other officials. Corvallis Fire Department personnel passed out numbers for those arriving at the station and when the 73 limit was reached, no one else was admitted to the meeting room. Eight additional seats were available to watch the meeting on video in a nearby conference room. The dozen or so others in the lobby were either out of luck or had to wait for someone to leave one of the two rooms. Most of those on hand came to observe the Caldwell Farms discussion, with more than 40 of them sporting "NO" stickers.