The Appeal of a Land Use Application

The city council meeting this week was record long at 4.25 hours (aka till 11:45 pm). We discussed, at length, a very important land use issue: an application to develop a 1.3 acre parcel to include 4 townhouses and 8 single family homes in a single family home neighborhood off of S. Ivy and SW 6th St.

It was a three-part application, actually, and it was appealed to us by the land owner, Allen Manuel, because his application was denied by the Planning Commission previously. In the end, the council voted 5-1 to uphold the Planning Commission’s denial.

I voted against the motion to deny the 3 applications (all bundled in one) because I felt strongly that the rezoning of this parcel from low density residential to commercial residential (which could include medium density residential) was reasonable and allowable under our existing comprehensive plan. Moreover, it is one of my primary goals as a councilor to increase the availability of affordable housing (smaller lots equal less costly houses in this case). It’s a complicated land use situation and several of the neighbors gave informed and intelligent testimony on the case, as did Mr. Manuel and his attorney.

The council debated the different interpretations of the city code being expressed, and I was proud of the thoughtful questions we asked our staff and each other and how thorough we were in our effort to make a good decision. In the end, the majority believed that we would be granting an exception to the code by approving the other two applications: a conditional use permit and the subdivision permit and they weren’t comfortable with changing the zoning of that area.

I understood the perspectives of both sides. I believe we should amend our city code in the near future to prevent future lack of clarity on the topic of “lot size averaging” and existing easement guidelines. When a developer invests tens of $1000s on a property development proposal because he interprets the city code in a manner that justifies his plan, we have a big problem. He has the right to appeal his case to a higher court called the Land Use Board of Appeals if he wishes. The neighbors of that section of SW Canby went home happy late last night. I commend them for being such an organized, concerned, and informed group of citizens.

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