A proposed 84-unit apartment complex moved through the Philomath Planning Commission's site design review process Aug. 28 and the developer hopes to break ground at the site on North 19th Street and College Street in the coming weeks.
"We've been working to bring this to fruition for several years now," said Matthew Conser, real estate broker with J. Conser & Sons. "Upon your approval and staff review of our permit submissions, we plan to start construction as soon as possible. We'd like to break ground this fall, pour foundations and frame this winter."
According to City Hall, a new complex has not been built in Philomath since the Cambridge Apartments went up on Applegate Street in 1976.
"That might concern some developers, but we're ready and willing to pioneer here," Conser said. "With your approval, we're ready to invest here in Philomath."
The planning commission approved the site plan on a 7-0 vote.
The current plans call for 60 two-bedroom units and 24 one-bedroom apartments. The 3.37-acre site would also feature open space, clubhouse, dog park and sports court and possibly playground equipment, planner David Dodson said.
Dodson said the complex will have points of entry on both 19th Street and College Street. He also said plans call for the preservation of all existing white oak trees on the site.
"We didn't conduct a neighborhood meeting, that wasn't a requirement. I did meet with neighbors, but not in a formal setting," Conser said in response to a commissioner's question. He added no negative responses and that the company had not heard from the neighboring Church of the Nazarene.
J. Conser & Sons has done housing developments in Tangent, North Albany, Millersburg, McMinnville, Lebanon and Corvallis.
"Currently our family builds new apartments, which we then screen the tenants, carefully fill the units, hold the property and manage it long term," Conser told the commission. "We do not build these projects and flip them to out-of-state investors."
The apartment complex, smaller than a 258-unit proposal on the table from another developer, did not seem to draw as much interest from those in attendance at the Aug. 28 planning commission meeting. Most of the audience left after an earlier public hearing on the development planned for eastern Philomath and a good number of those remaining were family and professional associates of J. Conser & Sons.
With the location on North 19th Street, traffic impacts were not much of a factor in the evening's discussion. There was mention of reducing the speed limit to 25 mph sooner up the road than what is currently established and an opponent testified her belief that the "back way to Corvallis" would be negatively affected.
Conser said Benton County's traffic analysis was "very limited because the impacts were low."
When asked about the type of residents targeted for the complex, Conser said he would expect a wide range of tenants. He did mention a particular hope that the apartments will serve the disabled and mature adult communities. He said they do take an occasional Section 8 HUD voucher for qualified tenants "but we do our own tenant screening and we manage these properties ourselves."
The developers said it would be difficult to nail down what rent they might charge.
"Until we get the project built, I really don't know, because it's really based on cost and a return on that investment," Conser said. "We've never been market leader, meaning highest rents in the marketplace; we don't like being in that position. ... We want a fair return on our investment and that's really a function of the cost."
Conser added that the complex would not be characterized as low-income housing.
"We like to call these achievable housing, something folks can afford," he said.
During the public hearing, two testified as opponents with no proponents. A neutral party had submitted information for the record, that being schools superintendent Melissa Goff on school enrollment numbers that indicated the district has room for approximately 350 additional students across the six schools.
One of those speaking under the opponent designation was a neighbor who lives on North 20th Place. She had questions primarily over field drainage but also had other general concerns.
"I guess I'm concerned because there's going to be a lot more people in the neighborhood. ... I just think we have to think of all of our resources that come with a lot of new people," she said, adding she doesn't necessarily object to the proposal but just wanted to voice concerns and hear explanations.
Engineer Brian Vandetta, of Udell Engineering and Land Surveying, said that a stormwater management plan is in place and the elevation of the site will be raised approximately 2 to 4 feet across the development.
The other opponent questioned the city's ability to handle impacts on water supply, quality of life in Philomath and traffic impacts on North 19th Street. Newton Creek is located east of North 20th Place.
Plans are in place to make pedestrian improvements to the area, including a sidewalk going off site with their own dollars north toward Alyrica.