Amid continuing concerns for Corvallis’ tight rental market, the Corvallis City Council took up the subject of the Campus Crest development of Witham Oaks again this last Tuesday. Planning commission recommendations for conditions of approval and public testimony were both received. The council vote concerning approval is set for Monday, March 3.
Planning Manager Kevin Young opened the crowded meeting with a brief overview of the project, highlighting some developmental concerns including pedestrian and bicycle safety, transit access and needed improvements to Harrison Boulevard.
This led to about 90-minutes of public testimony, mostly by those opposed to the project. First to speak were those in favor of the development, which amounted to just Campus Crest representative Mike Robinson. During Robinson’s talk he made it clear that he was satisfied with the criteria and conditions of approval that his group was facing.
In opposition, as many as twelve residents spoke. Some had to be reminded to speak only about conditions of approval, while one testimony was met with scattered applause when a man urged the city council to “do your job.” Two representatives from the Friends of Witham Oaks raised concerns about how property paths could lead to dead ends, storm water drainage issues and high water, as well as building on unstable wetlands.
Other concerns mentioned ranged from who will maintain the site’s open space by clearing away rubbish and keeping the space from becoming a homeless camp, and also distress over the possibility of student tenants causing disruptions in the surrounding neighborhood. Also mentioned were the damage multi-use paths and student activity may cause on nearby Arnold Park. However, the dominant issues were all about traffic worries, such as speeding, pollution, pedestrian safety and the possible development of an intersection for Harrison and Circle Blvd.
City council members then briefly discussed their development concerns with the planning commission before the meeting was adjourned.
It is not considered unusual that primarily opposition would show for public testimony concerning a development of this sort. The proposal is to build 296 units that could accommodate approximate 900 students on a site northeast of Harrison and Walnut; the footprint would be over 25 acres and would leave 70 acres open. The current vacancy rate in Corvallis is 3.7% and anything under 4% is considered tight and unbalanced.
by Patrick Fancher