Council Approves 166-Unit Apartment Complex

This article was published in the Canby Herald last week. It is very informative and I wanted to share it here.

Created on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 01:00 |

Decision results in zoning change to Pioneer Industrial Park, stands to generate $365K for the city.

The Canby City Council voted 4-3 to amend the city’s comprehensive plan and rezone 7.6 acres of land in the Pioneer Industrial Park for residential use, allowing a planned 166-unit apartment complex to be constructed at the front of the park.

Vancouver, Wash.-based Investment Development Management, LLC (IDM) plans to build the first new apartment project in Canby in 12 years, tentatively called Canby Commons, adding the units to the town’s real estate inventory at a time when observers say every available rental in the city has a waiting list.

The council was split in its decision, with Mayor Brian Hodson casting the tiebreaking vote following about three hours of discussion at the Sept. 16 meeting.

The main issues raised against the project came from councilors Traci Hensley and Todd Rocha, both of whom stated that they recognized there is a need for affordable and additional housing in Canby, but rezoning industrial land for residential use sets a slippery precedent by going against the city’s 16-year-old comprehensive plan and because it will burden fire, police and school services.

“If there was housing available we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Rocha said. “We’re only having it because we don’t have (enough) property. I don’t think that’s a justifiable reason for a rezone. I want to save it for the prom.”

Councilor Tracie Heidt objected to Rocha’s statement, saying that since it is only 7.6 acres of Pioneer Industrial Park that are being rezoned and it’s a piece of land at the front of the park – it’s right behind Fred Meyer – that the owner has unsuccessfully marketed for eight years, she did not understand the hesitation and a lack of flexibility she heard from Hensley and Rocha to rezone the property.

“What else would you propose that we do to make sure we have enough housing for our citizens?” Heidt asked. “We have got to do something.”

Councilor Clint Coleman noted that 80 percent of Canby’s workforce does not live in town, and that a greater inventory of housing, when there is close to none, creates a better chance of attracting businesses to the industrial park.

“We might as well put a sign out that says members only,” Coleman said. “We have to remain flexible. Canby is a wonderful place and if people want to work here and live here let’s let them do that.”

Councilor Hensley said she agreed with Rocha and that rezoning the land sets a precedent that will allow another developer to come in at a later date and request another zoning change that further diminishes the city’s comprehensive plan and urban renewal district.

“Why bother to have zoning at all?” Hensley said. “Just scrap it all. It sounds like a fantastic project … and I do agree there is a need for housing but I think we have to look at other locations. I’m also concerned that rezoning industrial to residential, they are going to require police and fire services, and schools. It’s going to have an impact on our budget, the fire budget, the police budget, the school budget. 166 units coming in, (those people are) going to require those services but we have no more money going into those services.”

Councilor Parker disagreed with Hensley’s assessment.

“Traci, I’m surprised at you,” he said. “You know how schools are funded. It’s based on a per-pupil basis. Each new pupil that goes into a classroom (the school district) gets $8,000 more. Also, we don’t have the police chief or the fire chief in here jumping up and down. If any of them thought this was a problem they would be here. We have nothing on record that supports any impact on schools, fire or police. I think we need to rule on the testimony before us.”

Canby Fire District Chief Jim Davis later told the Herald the fire department will provide services to new development one way or another. “I think the more important thing is making sure (each apartment unit) has automatic sprinklers. That minimizes our impact for fire.”

Canby Economic Development Director Renate Mengelberg, Planning Director Bryan Brown and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mallory Gwynn all testified before the council in favor of Canby Commons being constructed. IDM representatives Aaron Jones and Jason Larson also provided testimony to the council, saying Canby Commons is not geared toward low-income renters and that the property is being built with the mindset that each renter will have the option to buy his or her apartment.

“The average wait time to get into an apartment in Canby is a year and a half,” Jones said. “Eighty percent of the people who work here don’t live here and they would love to but they are on waiting lists trying to find somewhere to live. From a community standpoint this parcel is ideally situated in the (industrial) park with access to retail and medical services within walking distance. The idea is to spur more industrial development and create jobs for people living nearby. This would take a chunk out of the waiting list and provide those people with a place to move into now.”

Larson said from start to finish the project would take about 18 months complete – six to seven months for the planning and design phase, and then once shovels move dirt a community center and pool will be constructed at the front of the property with a $1.2 million to $1.5 million structure going up in 90 to 120 days. After that another four to eight units will be completed every three weeks until the project is completed.

Mayor Hodson, after listening to all of the testimony from audience members and discussion among the city councilors, said he wanted to put in his two cents.

“The question is, is this the right spot for this?” Hodson said. “Affordable housing is a huge conversation for our community right now. Look at Densmore Estates. The average housing price in there is, what, $350,000, $400,000, $450,000? And that’s for a single-family home. Canby is one of the most densely populated cities in Oregon. We have to work within those confines. The industrial park is our engine. It pays for a lot of things we want to do as a city.

“We do have a housing situation in our community,” Hodson continued. “We have a great community and we are passionately trying to hold on to our agricultural roots. It’s almost a ‘Rockwell-ian’ pursuit of a community. That’s why we have great turnout at community events. We often hear we need more apartments for affordable housing until we say we are going to put it (somewhere specific) and then people say, ‘Timeout, we don’t want it here.’ We have waiting lists on every single apartment in Canby. No one likes change. Change is hard. People only want change in their pockets.

“I’m going to vote yes for this project,” Hodson concluded. “I think it’s where we need to go (as a community) and I understand this is part of a larger conversation we need to have, but this is not something we need to wait for another council to (address). I think the zone change works here.”

City Administrator Rick Robinson said the city stands to generate $365,000 in system development charges from the construction of Canby Commons.


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