An unfortunate editorial

We can no longer say that the Gazette Times agrees with us after their editorial of 10/17/12. Of course we are disappointed. We believe approving the Sather Annexation and its accompanying development, the Retreat at Oak Creek, is short-sighted and wrong for Corvallis. Continue reading for our responses to some of the editor’s statements …

“If we can’t develop a housing project intended for students on this site, where else in Corvallis is a better location?”

Where else in Corvallis? The answer seems obvious: on OSU land. The more important question, though, is this: Why must we develop any more housing just for students?

“A recent national survey found that Corvallis has the tightest rental market of any college town in the United States.”

What survey is that? We believe the editor is referring to a survey referenced in an ad run in the GT by Landmark Properties. We’re trying to gain access to that study, but thus far our calls have not been returned. However, the local study mentioned (conducted by OSU) puts the vacancy rate at 2.3% and, while they say that figure may be high, they also have confirmed that in compiling their data they weighted a 5-bedroom unit equally with a 1-bedroom unit. What is the correct number? We don’t know, but we question the gravity of the situation when we continue to see “For Rent” signs near campus.

“OSU’s enrollment continues to grow – and, maybe just as important, the demographics of the university’s enrollment are changing. OSU is more likely now to be drawing transfer students from community colleges – older students who have little interest in living in dormitories.”

Yes, enrollment continues to grow. But OSU President Ed Ray has backed away from his huge growth plan and has now put a cap of 28,000 on enrollment at the Corvallis campus. That is only about 2,000 more than the current level, growth that can be easily managed without this huge development.

And all those older students who are not interested in living in dormitories? That’s what the Retreat is – it’s just not on campus.

It is the final three paragraphs of the GT’s editorial that are most in need of clarification. In those paragraphs, the editor implies that the Planning Commission and the City Council concluded that the advantages of this student housing development outweigh the disadvantages. That is simply not true.

Both the Planning Commission and the City Council were required to review a set of objective criteria related to annexation of the land to the city. Nowhere in that section of the application for annexation* is there mention of student housing. Why not? Because the actual development did not factor into the decision-making process. This was a point of frustration for those of us who attended Planning and Council meetings and tried to raise concerns about the proposed development.

In fact, during the Council’s discussion prior to voting on August 20, 2012, as entered into the minutes* of that meeting, Councilor Raymond stated specifically, “forwarding the annexation without endorsement of property development shows support and respect for the community.”

For the recent editorial to imply any endorsement on the part of the Planning Commission or City Council is disingenuous, at best.

* Online access to these and all documents in the public record related to the Sather Annexation is blocked. If you are interested in viewing these documents, they are available at the Corvallis Public Library.

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