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OSU changes approach on new district plan

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A lengthy process the city of Corvallis has been involved in to discuss comprehensive plan amendments that will be required to review Oregon State University’s District Plan has been thrown into chaos.

University officials submitted a letter to commissioners on the eve of Wednesday’s deliberations calling into question whether the district plan is required or necessary.

“There is no enabling policy for campus master plans in the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code does not have a procedure for approval or denial of such plan,” said the letter, signed by Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations and marketing and Ron Adams, interim vice president for administration. “This disconnect has led to great confusion.”

Indeed. The university distributed a schedule of meetings, public outreach and city review of the plan, which in the past has been the blueprint that guides university growth and development for 10-year intervals. The plan was scheduled to go before the City Council for final approval at the end of 2015. Not any more.

“At one time that was the strategy,” said David Dodson, campus planning manager, who testified at the meeting along with Clark. “That has changed.”

Instead, OSU proposes that the section of the LDC that deals with the “OSU Zone” would serve as the “regulatory tool.”

“Through the OSU Zone, the City would provide the single, comprehensive set of regulations, mitigation measures, procedures and monitoring requirements for the OSU campus,” the letter states.

City officials at Wednesday’s meeting at the downtown fire station struggled with how to respond.

“You are asking good questions,” deputy city attorney David Coulombe told the commissioners. “This is news to me, too, this new approach. The paradigm has shifted again, and I need time to absorb this. I understand your questions and we will answer them.”

Commissioners are scheduled to continue the discussion at their April 20 meeting. The amendments were developed by a seven-member city task force that met 15 times. Included on the task force were three councilors and four members of the Planning Commission.

Present at Wednesday’s public hearing was Ward 1 Councilor Penny York, who serves as council liaison to the commission. York, as council president, has played a key role in city efforts to work with OSU on growth and parking issues.

“I’m surprised,” York said of OSU’s presentation. “I have not been notified in a meeting that this was an approach that they were going to propose. We’ll want more information on this. We’re going to have to think about this in a new way and look for what is in the best interests of the city.”

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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