Voters have been blamed, by notable commenters, for the high cost and shortage of Corvallis housing. In fact, voters have played a relatively minor part, with more significant causes located elsewhere. And, rather than vilify and dismiss citizen participation in annexation-related development, we should encourage and protect it.
Significant voter-approved acreage is available. Parcels either remain vacant, development only recently approved, approvals in process, or not yet granted.
Many property owners don’t seek annexation, or have been discouraged. They maintain their rural status, or encounter burdensome development requirements, including natural features protections that allow only a tiny fraction of developable land and/or require expensive and uncertain impact-mitigation.
Annexation requirements, costs, and uncertainty are often unrelated to voter approval. Applicants pay professionals to satisfy the lengthy list of code requirements, agree to often costly approval conditions, then make a no-charge pitch to elected officials and voters — who have approved most annexation requests. In southwest Corvallis, for example, all annexations (of many) have received voter approval. It’s true that with larger parcels, or higher density, and more neighbors, uncertainty for public approval increases. In those cases, applicants should expect to make a public case for the need, and satisfy reasonable requests to address negative impacts to neighbors and the community.
Despite the uncertain future of citizens’ direct voice in annexations, we should take some comfort in the knowledge that we have elected and appointed officials acting faithfully and diligently to protect and assert what remains of our constitutional right to home rule.
Corvallis (Feb. 8)