Oregon State University’s hopes of building a new dorm on the east end of campus received a reprieve from the Corvallis City Council on Monday in a night of high drama on land use.
OSU's plan to change the development and open space allocations in two of its sectors was defeated in a pair of 4-3 votes at the Aug. 5 council session. But at Monday’s usually routine adoption of formal findings Ward 8 Councilor Ed Junkins was on hand — he was absent for the first vote.
Junkins provided the fourth vote to approve the plan and Mayor Biff Traber, who only votes to break ties, voted with Junkins on both pieces of the application, citing the need for student housing and his sense that the plot at the corner of Ninth Street and Monroe Avenue was a “reasonable” place to put it.
But the dramatics before a standing-room-only crowd at the downtown fire station didn’t end there. Ward 3 Councilor Hyatt Lytle followed with a motion that passed 6-2 to approve OSU’s development space request but deny the open space piece of the application.
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. City approval is required for such changes.
This means that councilors favor allowing a new 290-resident dorm, that would consist of a three-story building facing Ninth and a four-story, L-shaped structure at the corner of 11th and Madison. As long as OSU doesn’t shift the 10,000 square feet of open space to the west.
The verdict left Central Park Neighborhood Association President Courtney Cloyd, a strong plan opponent, “disappointed,” and OSU officials with a sizable victory.
“We applaud the council and Mayor Traber for their decision to allow for additional housing,” said Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for marketing and university relations. “Housing is a major issue that affects the entire community and not just the students who are enrolled at the university.”
Clark said the university will take the open space piece of the decision “under advisement” while concluding that “it’s a very complex matter.”
The key change likely for OSU will be to review its parking plan for the dorm, which would serve upper-division and graduate students.
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Junkins was joined by Nancy Wyse (Ward 6), Andrew Struthers (Ward 9) and Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3) in the two 4-4 votes that Traber unknotted. Voting to deny the OSU application were Jan Napack (Ward 1), Charles Maughan (Ward 2), Barbara Bull (Ward 4) and Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5).
Lytle was joined by Struthers, Junkins, Maughan, Napack and Bull in the 6-2 vote to allow just the development swap. Wyse and Ellis voted no.
In two other high-profile land use issues on the agenda:
• Councilors held a limited public hearing on a proposed annexation agreement between the city and developers who want to bring a 16.45-acre plot of land south of West Hills Road into the city’s stock of land and build housing on the parcel.
Because of requests to hold the record open an additional seven days, councilors did not deliberate on the Caldwell Farms plan. Those wishing to add additional testimony should email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. Aug. 26. The applicant then will have an additional seven days to respond. The council will take up the matter again at its Sept. 16 meeting.
Ten residents spoke in opposition to the plan during the public testimony period of the hearing. No one spoke in favor of the plan, with one individual providing neutral testimony.
Opponents cited traffic concerns on West Hills, wetlands issues, the possible use of eminent domain for infrastructure and criticized the council for moving forward on the annexation proposal before a new area plan for the region is completed.
• Councilors voted 4-3 on a second reading of a proposal that, pending an appeal, allows developers to move forward with a plan for an apartment complex at the corner of Southwest Country Club Drive and 53rd Street. The builders needed council approval to boost the zoning to RS-20, or high-density residential.
The council originally voted 4-3 to deny the plan at its June 17 meeting. But when formal findings came up Aug. 5, with a different cast of councilors on hand, Traber broke a 3-3 tie by casting a yes vote. At Monday’s second reading Junkins, who had voted with those rejecting the Carson plan June 17, switched sides and voted to approve, noting that in the intervening two months further deliberations on the city’s housing issues had convinced him to back the Carson plan.