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Planning Commission sends big code update on to council

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Planning Commission sends big code update on to council

The owner of this property on Northwest 14th Street wants to tear down the building, subdivide the lot and build two three-bedroom units. It is under appeal and set to go before City Council on Oct. 20. The Planning Commission, meanwhile, approved code amendments Wednesday night that will make it harder to get approval for such approaches in the future. (Andy Cripe | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

The Corvallis Planning Commission approved a series of Land Development Code updates Wednesday night that will make it more challenging for developers to build large infill student housing units in town in the future.

Commissioners passed three sets of code amendments, all of which must be reviewed by the City Council.

The first set, which stems from work done by the neighborhood planning workgroup of the Collaboration Corvallis project, would change design standards, particularly for facades and roof articulation, in an effort to improve compatibility and visual appeal in neighborhoods.

The second set would change the way density is calculated in residential zones. The previous policy involved the use of a controversial “rounding” procedure which community activists said led to more units being built per acre than residential zones should allow.

The new approach would create minimum lot sizes to help limit how often maximum density is breached.

The third group of amendments would create a new university neighborhood overlay, covering most of the neighborhoods that surround Oregon State University, and eliminate two previous zoning designations, RS9U and RS12U.

The key piece of the amendment would establish maximum floor area ratios for new development that would make it harder for large-scale units to be built in neighborhoods that contain less-massive homes.

“This has been a very long process,” said Commissioner Kent Daniels. “It started three years ago, and the driving force was that the quality of life was being degraded by what was happening in the neighborhoods.”

Residents have been vocal about the problems associated with the influx of townhouses and duplexes designed to house OSU’s growing student population in neighborhoods that largely consisted of much-smaller dwellings.

The amendments were opposed by real estate investor Todd Coykendall, who said that it will be impossible to build townhouses for students in the future.

Holly Sears, government affairs coordinator of the Willamette Association of Realtors, also spoke against the updates, citing a lack of specifics and the possible impact of the changes on the affordability of housing in Corvallis.

Commissioner Paul Woods agreed with the opponents.

“This (decision) will come as a surprise to a lot of people,” said Woods, who voted no on the design standards and university overlay sections. “I sympathize with people who are concerned about OSU’s growth, but I’m also sensitive to people feeling this was sprung on them.”

Woods also favored delaying a vote on the updates a week because some of the information in the staff report had only reached commissioners Monday and that it was in the public’s interest to give it a thorough review.

Woods was the lone no vote on the packages. Daniels and commissioners Jim Ridlington, Ron Sessions, James Feldmann and Tucker Selko voted yes on all three.

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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