Q & A

We’ve tried to answer many of the questions people have asked. (Click on a question to jump to its answer.)

To ask us a question, please use the “Leave a Reply” feature below. We look forward to providing you with as much information as we can.

Why should I vote against the annexation?

Where is the Sather property located?

Is the proposed development compatible with nearby properties?

Is it possible that someone else will develop the Sather property?

How did the Sather family find Landmark Properties?

How many students would The Retreat at Oak Creek accommodate?

How does the size of this development compare to other new or proposed student housing complexes in Corvallis?

What kind of support and security will Landmark provide for their residents?

What will the floor plans be like at The Retreat at Oak Creek?

With all of the trees on the property, the development would be well-hidden from the road, wouldn’t it?

If this annexation is approved, when could we expect the project to be completed?

Should I be worried about the traffic and parking problems this development will add to the area?

How many parking spaces are planned for the occupants of this development?

Is there a plan to install a traffic signal on Western Blvd at the entrance to the development?

Is there an explanation of all of the improvements that will be made to streets because of the additional traffic?

How big is OSU going to get?

Are vacancy rates as low as they say?

Do we really need more student housing?

But if housing is so scarce and expensive, shouldn’t we vote in favor of this annexation and development?

Why did the Planning Commission give this property such a high density zoning designation?

How did Measure 02-80 make it onto the ballot?

How many citizens spoke in favor of this annexation at the City Council meeting?

How many citizens spoke in opposition to the annexation? What did they have to say?

What kinds of questions did City Council members ask?

When will I be able to voice my opinions and concerns about the actual development?

If the developer complies with all Land Development Code, that’s good, right?

Would Corvallis receive any tax revenue from the development?

If the voters approve the annexation, will the added tax revenue solve the city’s financial problems?

Would property taxes from this development help to fund Corvallis public schools?

How does the loss of students in the public schools affect our district’s funding?

Have the public schools suffered losses due to declining enrollment?

Q: Why should I vote against the annexation?

Remember that a vote for the annexation is a vote for Landmark Property’s development, The Retreat at Oak Creek.

Many people oppose this measure, for many reasons. Here are some good ones (at least, we think so):

  • Collaboration Corvallis must complete its work – including important changes to the development code – before further development of this type occurs.
  • Yet another student-only development doesn’t make sense. Corvallis needs mixed-use housing that will be available to all of its citizens. We need housing that will attract families and encourage them to settle here.
  • OSU needs to take more responsibility for housing its increasing population, especially if President Ray continues to push his growth plan.
  • The RS-12, medium-high density zoning designation isn’t appropriate for this property, and ANY development that meets the planned density requirements is too big for the surrounding area.
  • The increase in traffic in this semi-rural area would be significant, and the intersection of SW 35th St & SW Western Blvd would become even more congested and dangerous.
  • There would undoubtedly be insufficient parking within the development, and there is no place for overflow parking to go.

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Q: Where is the Sather property located?

The property is located west of SW 35th Street, fronting SW Western Blvd.

Property boundary is approximate only; map is not intended to be viewed as an official document.

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Q: Is the proposed development compatible with nearby properties?

We don’t think so! You can decide for yourself – we’ve outlined the property on a satellite picture of the area. To the south – low-density family neighborhoods, to the north – semi-rural land, to the west, the lovely Hanson Inn and more semi-rural land, and to the east, the very southwest boundary of the OSU campus, also either semi-rural or low-density properties. A complex of about 39 buildings housing up to 1,000 or more students would not be good fit for this property.

Property boundary is approximate only; map is not intended to be viewed as an official document.

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Q: Is it possible that someone else will develop the Sather property?

Not at this time. The annexation and development go hand-in-hand. A vote for the Sather Annexation is a vote for the proposed development, The Retreat at Oak Creek.

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Q: How did the Sather family find Landmark Properties?

Landmark found them. Landmark Properties is an Athens, GA based development company that specializes in building off-campus, “premier” student housing. They study housing markets in university towns throughout the country and look for buildable land in communities they think might be receptive to their style of development.

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Q: How many students would The Retreat at Oak Creek accommodate?

Until a formal development plan is submitted – after annexation – we don’t know what the true numbers are. Here’s what we do know:

  • Landmark Properties says about 290 units with 650 bedrooms.
  • The non-binding plan submitted with the annexation application depicts 39 buildings with 893 bedrooms.
  • The city’s medium-high zoning designation (RS-12) allows up to 20 units per acre with the potential of well over 1,000 bedrooms.

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Q: How does the size of this development compare to other new or proposed student housing complexes in Corvallis?

Let’s compare. The Retreat at Oak Creek would have 650 – 1,000+ bedrooms.

Two new complexes opened this month (September 2012)

  • Seventh Street Station (7th St & Western Blvd) has 309 bedrooms in completely furnished units.
  • Tyler Street Townhomes (29th & Tyler St) has 215 bedrooms, also fully furnished.

Under construction:

  • Harrison Street Apartments (Harrison & 27th St) will have 221 bedrooms.
  • Franklin Plaza’s replacement (behind Fred Meyer) will have 112 bedrooms.

Under review with the Planning Commission:

  • Campus Crest’s proposal for the Witham Oaks property would have almost 800 bedrooms.

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Q: What kind of support and security will Landmark provide for their residents?

“Landmark plans to have a full-time manager on the site, as well as a ‘courtesy officer’ — an off-duty police officer who would patrol the premises in exchange for a free apartment.” (Gazette Times, 6/1/12)

One manager for 650 – 1,000+ students? An off-duty police officer? How much security will that provide, really?

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Q: What will the floor plans be like at The Retreat at Oak Creek?

We don’t know—the developer has not released any specific information. You can visit Landmark Property’s website to look at some of their other developments. A typical plan includes four or five bedroom/bathroom “suites” with a small kitchen and shared living space.

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Q: With all of the trees on the property, the development would be well-hidden from the road, wouldn’t it?

Nope. The RS-12 zoning designation allows a minimum 10′ setback from Western Blvd. The maximum setback is only 24′, which means the multitudes of apartment buildings would be very visible from the road.

We don’t know if they would have to remove the trees along Western Blvd to achieve the required setback.

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Q: If this annexation is approved, when could we expect the project to be completed?

We don’t know. However, the Landmark website dedicated to this development announces that it is “Coming Soon!”

If Measure 02-80 passes, Landmark could submit their formal development plan immediately. If they’ve done their homework and do not request variances or exceptions to the Land Development Code, there will be no public comment period – construction will begin and the citizens of Corvallis will have no voice in the decisions made about this massive development.

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Q: Should I be worried about the traffic and parking problems this development will add to the area?

Yes!

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Q: How many parking spaces are planned for the occupants of this development?

No exact figures are available, but with the current Land Development Code, we can say this with assurance: “Not enough!”

Current Land Development Code is outdated and does not address the type of student housing being built all over Corvallis – essentially off-campus dormitories. Parking space requirements were created for family housing and are the same for 3-, 4-, and 5-bedroom units; thus a 5-bedroom apartment with 5 separate leases only has to have 2.5 parking spaces … the same number as a 3-bedroom, single lease unit.

The City Council has been presented with a fast-track request to change the parking code so that a 4-bedroom unit would have to have 3.5 spaces and a 5-bedroom unit would have to have 4.5 spaces. It is possible that this code change could be approved by early next year, but that would be too late to change the development plans for the Sather property!

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Q: Is there a plan to install a traffic signal on Western Blvd at the entrance to the development?

According to the traffic study submitted with the annexation application, there are no plans to add any traffic signals, anywhere, as a result of the proposed development.

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Q: Is there an explanation of all of the street improvements that would be made because of the additional traffic?

The application includes a detailed traffic study that calls for very few changes to the existing streets. The study isn’t easy to read, but we spotted two possible flaws:

  • The narrative of the study claims that there are left-turn lanes at each approach to the SW 35th St & SW Western Blvd intersection. That simply is not true and it is a serious error. There is no left-turn lane on northbound 35th St, which feeds traffic north from Highway 34. Traffic already backs up significantly at this approach and it seems that any attempt to widen the street would encroach on the residential properties to the east and west.
  • The data used to calculate predicted traffic volume and flow is based on a flawed assumption – that all “dwelling units” are essentially equal, thus the traffic generated by a 4-bedroom/4 lease unit is equal to that of a 1-bedroom unit. Landmark is proposing that almost half of their apartments will have four bedrooms.

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Q: How big is OSU going to get?

We know it will continue to grow. Some time ago, OSU President Ed Ray announced his intention to encourage an annual growth rate of 5% or more, hoping to reach a student population of 35,000 by the year 2025. Many in the community were shocked by this projection, understanding that our city, charming because of its small-town appeal, could not handle such growth.

Since then, things have shifted …

President Ray realized that the university could not support his initial level of growth and backed off a bit. Read the article here.

In addition, OSU is dramatically expanding their Cascades Campus in Bend and hopes that it will draw students from Corvallis to even further slow local growth.

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Q: Are vacancy rates as low as they say?

We have been told that the vacancy rate in Corvallis is too low, and we certainly don’t want to negate anyone’s struggle in finding appropriate housing in a difficult market. However, while the city’s vacancy rate has been reported to be 1% – 2%, those numbers do not reflect the latest student housing complexes that have opened in town and traditional calculation methods do not take into account an important shift in the rental market.

The Land Development Code defines a family, in part, as “a group of not more than five adults unrelated by blood or marriage, living together in a dwelling unit.” This has become a common practice in single family houses near OSU. In addition, the current trend in student housing construction in Corvallis is complexes with 4- or 5-bedroom apartments and 4 or 5 separate leases. Yet, each house and apartment, regardless of the possible number of residents, is weighted equally when calculating the city’s vacancy rate.

We need to reassess the need for yet another off-campus, dorm-style development after we see the effects of all of the current and upcoming construction: Seventh Street Station adds 309 bedrooms; Tyler Street Townhomes has 215 bedrooms. The Harrison Street apartments will have 221 bedrooms, and Franklin Plaza will add 112 bedrooms to the mix. Campus Crest is within city limits and has a plan for close to 800 bedrooms currently under review with the Planning Commission. Also, the University will require freshmen to live on campus beginning in 2013 and the university is planning to build a new 300-bed dormitory.

Click here to see the 2012 Corvallis Area Rental Market Analysis.

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Q: Do we really need more student housing?

Yes … and no. We know there is a housing problem in Corvallis. The city and university together are suffering growing pains, with plans for rapid OSU enrollment increases threatening to overwhelm the city’s infrastructure and shift the balance between student and non-student populations.

Some of the issues are a natural part of living in a university town, with young adults living independently, many for the first time, struggling to learn what it means to be a good neighbor. If you live in an area close to campus, you might be frustrated by the changes you’ve experienced as more students move into single family homes. You might think moving them to the edge of town, in a big complex like The Retreat at Oak Creek, is a good idea.

It’s not that simple.

It isn’t necessary for students to live in the type of rental units popping up all over town. These complexes are built only for students. The typical floor plan (here are examples from Seventh Street Station) has four or five bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and separate lease, along with a small shared living space made of a kitchen and dining/living area. The Tyler Street Townhomes Phase 4 units have five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and rent for $2,975/month. Hardly family housing!

These are not mixed-use developments; single non-student adults won’t live there. Families won’t live there. Seniors won’t live there. They are designed this way because they are huge money-makers, not because they enhance our community and increase choice in the rental market.

New development must provide what the city really needs: more housing for all of its citizens, not just for its students.

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Q: But if housing is so scarce and expensive, shouldn’t we vote in favor of this annexation and development?

As a quick fix, it seems like the answer, doesn’t it? But there are some important factors to consider.

Collaboration Corvallis, a city/OSU group committed to finding ways to intelligently manage growth, is hard at work. Let’s not vote for any more development until their proposed Land Development Code changes are in place.

One of the issues at stake is the bigger question: what is your vision for the future of Corvallis? We love OSU and all it brings to the community! But it comes down to this: do you want a town that is completely dominated by the university? or do you want to maintain a balance among all citizens of our community?

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Q: Why did the Planning Commission give this property such a high density zoning designation?

That designation comes from the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive plan was completed in 1998 and updated/implemented in 2006. The plan provides a vision of what Corvallis is and will be, while the Land Development Code  provide the regulations needed to implement that vision.

We believe that to allow for eventual expansion of the city limits while maintaining the integrity of the area, the planned zoning designation for the Sather property must be changed to permit more reasonable and responsible development.

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Q: How did Measure 02-80 make it onto the ballot?

Every annexation application goes through the same process. You’ll find a complete description here.

The Planning Commission reviews the application and any follow-up information from the applicant, listens to public comment, and decides if it will recommend to the City Council to put the annexation on the ballot. Regardless of their recommendation, the application the goes to the Council for consideration. The Council decides if the annexation will go before the voters.

To make the process as fair and unbiased as possible, both city entities have a series of objective criteria to review for each application.

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Q: How many citizens spoke in favor of this annexation at the City Council meeting?

No one spoke in favor of the annexation; however, one person submitted a favorable letter during the week-long period after the meeting when public comment was still accepted.

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Q: How many citizens spoke in opposition to the annexation? What did they have to say?

Seven people spoke in opposition to the Sather Annexation and two others submitted letters into the public record.

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Q: What kinds of questions did City Council members ask?

You can view all of the meeting minutes – and all other public record on the Sather Annexation – at the Corvallis Public Library. All documents are now blocked on the city’s website.

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Q: When will I be able to voice my opinions and concerns about the actual development?

If the developer complies with all Land Development Code? Never.

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Q: If the developer complies with all Land Development Code, that’s good, right?

Wrong! City officials have acknowledged that current code does not address this new trend in development that Landmark Properties describes as “out-sourced” and “purpose-built” housing. What does that mean?

It means … that universities are shifting the responsibility for housing their students, forcing their communities to pick up the slack. We don’t expect all students to live in university housing, but as a land grant university, OSU has acres of empty land to develop.

It means … the construction of apartment complexes that are essentially off-campus dormitories, without the social support of the university.

It means … hundreds of 4- and 5-bedroom apartments in which each bedroom has a private bathroom and a separate lease. Shared living space is small, making these apartments unsuitable for any other type of tenant (thus purposely built for students only).

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Q: Would Corvallis receive any tax revenue from the development?

Yes. The city will receive property taxes as well as development and permitting fees regardless of who develops the property.

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Q: If the voters approve the annexation, will the added tax revenue solve the city’s financial problems?

Increased revenue would come with any development of the property, not just this one.

Property taxes help fund our schools, but because of the state’s funding system, the Corvallis School District receives its budget dollars based on student enrollment. More here.

Other types of real estate tax and fee revenue could help the city budget, but remember that a project of this density will increase the drain on city services. Annexation is not the best or long-term way to solve city budget issues. Responsible development that serves year round resident needs, is less dense, and has requirements for adequate parking will also generate tax revenue while maintaining Corvallis as a desirable place to live.

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Q: Would property taxes from this development help to fund Corvallis public schools?

Yes … and no. Oregon has an “equalizing” funding system. Funds are distributed among all districts equally on a per-student basis:

“To achieve equal per-student funding, the current formula reduces state aid if local revenues are high and increases state aid if local revenues are low.” (Oregon Dept. of Education)

Thus, when our district’s enrollment drops, so does our district’s budget.

Corvallis District 509J lost 19 teachers this year, and dropping enrollment was a significant factor. As affordable housing becomes more difficult to find, and new development is primarily for OSU students, families are leaving Corvallis and enrolling their children in schools in our neighboring communities.

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Q: How does the loss of students in the public schools affect our district’s funding?

Our local schools receive their money from the state, based on a complicated funding process. The state distributes funds equally among all districts in Oregon, based on a per-student dollar amount. When local revenues increase, state aid decreases.

At its simplest, declining enrollment means a declining budget.

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Q: Have the public schools suffered losses due to declining enrollment?

Yes. The 2012 – 2013 Corvallis school district budget was cut by $4.5 million dollars—a loss of 19 teachers—in large part because of declining enrollment.

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