The Benton County Planning Commission unanimously rejected a conditional use permit application last week. Failure to obtain the permit was just the latest problem encountered by Benton County Public Works in its effort to construct a multimodal path connecting Corvallis to Albany. The commission’s decision came after weeks of delays to accommodate public testimony, and just days before the deadline of an ODOT grant essential to the project: $2 million dollars was to be given to the county to pay for a two-mile stretch of the trail. However, the grant required a funding agreement be signed Feb. 21 and that the project be completed by the end of 2016. Without the permit, Benton County officials will be unable to achieve the first of the stipulations.
The commission stated that Public Works failed to properly address the concerns of the landowners directly affected by the proposed path. While Benton County has purchased easements from several private landowners, a group of farmers had banded together in defiance of the project. Outspoken and determined, the group hired an attorney who promised to protect their land with all available legal means.
An extension of the deadlines for grant money might technically be possible, but could prove to be only a stay of execution for the project. Unless, that is, Benton County Commissioners decide to declare the land in question as eminent domain. Even then, a legal battle would follow.
By Dave DeLuca