Planning Commission Reviews Proposed Coulter Subdivision

Kristy Tallman

In a recent city planning commission meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 1, residents and developers alike voiced their concerns and proposals regarding several agenda items, ranging from zoning variances to the subdivision of land for residential development.

One of the key agenda items discussed was the zoning variance application for 1589 & 1591 41st Avenue, Sweet Home, OR 97386; Identified on the Linn County Assessor’s Map as 13S01E28CD Tax Lot 4500. This item was rought forth by applicant Laura Laroque. Laroque sought a variance for a 3-foot setback from existing dwellings on property zoned residential high density. The commission delved into the specifics of the request, acknowledging unique site conditions and the need to balance code requirements with practicality. Commissioner remarks included firsthand observations of the property, underlining the commission’s thorough consideration of each application.

In a separate variance request for a non-conforming lot, Laurel Rock with Udal Engineering and Land Surveying presented an application seeking a lesser setback standard for a property with two single-family detached dwellings constructed on adjacent lots.

The proposal includes an adjustment of the common property line between these two properties resulting in a net change of approximately 9,148 square feet (0.21 acres) from Proposed Area B (Lot 20) to Proposed Area A (Lot 19). Proposed Area A will increase in size from approximately 10,019 square feet (0.23 acres) to approximately 19,166 square feet (0.44 acres). Proposed Area B will decrease in size from approximately 24,394 square feet (0.56 acres) to approximately 15,246 square feet (0.35 acres). The subject properties are identified on the Linn County Assessor’s Map No.13S01E28CD Tax Lot 4500.

Despite potential code violations, the committee ultimately voted to approve the variance, highlighting the importance of addressing hardships while maintaining adherence to city regulations.

However, the most significant discussion revolved around the proposed subdivision, referred to as SD 23-01, which aimed to divide 41.03 acres into 161 residential lots over four phases. The proposed subdivision is located north of Colter Lane, south of 43rd Avenue, and identified on the county tax assessor’s map. Lot sizes vary from around 7,000 to nearly 29,000 square feet, intended for single-family dwellings or duplexes, in a residential low-density zone.

Cordle Construction, applicants for the project, presented their plans, emphasizing the integration of parkland within the development to reduce system development charges and enhance community appeal. “Our goal is to create not just a neighborhood, but a community where families can thrive,” Mindy Kartal stated during her presentation.

The applicant, Cordle Construction LLC (Cordle), is also the owner of both parcels of land, tax lots 2800 and 3502 map 13S01E33D, included in the application presented to the commission.. Cordle also owns tax lots 3600 and 3602 which are covered by roadway easements for the extensions of 45th Avenue and 46th Avenue, respectively, to the south and thus serving tax lots 2800 and 3502

The presentation detailed each phase of the subdivision, including the number of residential lots and stormwater tracks. The applicant addressed potential concerns such as traffic impact and infrastructure requirements, proposing improvements to accommodate increased traffic and ensure compliance with engineering standards. Additionally, considerations were made for pedestrian and bicycle access, street signage, and other amenities to enhance neighborhood safety and connectivity.

Staff findings supported the application’s compliance with zoning regulations, engineering requirements, and land use criteria. Recommendations included conditions to ensure adherence to approved plans, completion of necessary improvements, and obtaining relevant permits. The Planning Commission deliberated on options to approve, deny, or continue the application.

Throughout the discussion, concerns were raised by commissioners and audience members, with one commissioner questioning, “Have you considered any non-water requiring ground cover?” asked Commissioner Eva Jurney.

Another commissioner expressed concern about the current state of 43rd Avenue, stating, “43rd Avenue isn’t going to handle a lot of extra traffic right now. Is the traffic study going to address the extra traffic?” asked Nancy White.

The discussion covered topics ranging from street design and traffic studies to environmental considerations like wetland delineation and water-efficient landscaping. There were also exchanges about the potential future development of adjacent properties and the city’s role in addressing infrastructure needs.

Community members were given the opportunity to express their views on the project.

Public input during the meeting echoed a range of concerns, from traffic impact studies to stormwater management and community space allocation. “We’re worried about the increased traffic and the strain it will put on our already congested streets,” stated Sweet Home resident, Sarah Jenkins. “We need assurances that the infrastructure will support this level of growth.”

Katie Vineyard, who resides at 4309 Long Street, expressed apprehensions regarding narrow roads and parking availability, citing potential fire hazards and navigational difficulties.

Vineyard raised concerns about safety hazards, noting, “I feel like that would be a fire hazard for the fire department.” She also emphasized the importance of street improvements, asking, “Street improvements, are they going to be completed mainly so that two vehicles can pass each other?”

Furthermore, Vineyard highlighted environmental concerns, stating, “Wetland destruction increases water pollution in the streams of the local municipal water supply.” She also discussed potential strain on elementary school capacity, stating, “As recently as 2021, the school districts had to make attendance boundary changes for Hawthorne Elementary to accommodate students due to incoming families as a result of developments.”

Vineyard concluded by urging for thorough enforcement and follow-through on development proposals, stating, “I just don’t want this proposal to be the same way saying they’re going to do something and then it not being followed through and done. Because it’s really frustrating.”

Similarly, Kay Thrash voiced worries about water runoff and housing size suitability in flood-prone areas, urging developers to prioritize sustainable drainage solutions. She expressed worries about the potential impact on streams and wells, particularly noting her surface water-type well.

Thrash also questioned the suitability of smaller-sized properties in the area, fearing they may lead to transient residency and disrupt the neighborhood’s character. She emphasized the lack of open space in the proposed development, contrasting it with the predominantly larger properties in the vicinity. Furthermore, she questioned deviations from the established road width standards, citing the city’s requirement of 50 feet for roads to accommodate utilities, sidewalks, and beauty strips.

“Much like Katie,” said Thrash, “the water runoff issue, I have up to two inches of running water on my field, in the wintertime. It comes off that hill, that hill is owned by Hill timber managed by CTC.I doubt it’s ever going to be developed. And it’s got a lot of water that comes off of it. And if there’s not a lot of mitigation, then it’s going to cause real problems. And the mitigation itself may cause additional problems. As Katie said, anytime you replace natural vegetation with hard surface, you’re going to have more runoff, it’s going to affect the streams. It’s going to affect the wells.”

Thrash said she had a well on her property that is more akin to a surface water type well. She felt that most residents in the area will have issues with the water runoff due to these types of wells. She continued, “Oh, it’s just a lot of little concerns about the number of houses, how small they are. You know, people turn them into rentals. And then the people that have moved in and say, Oh, I don’t want to live by a rental. It seems like all these little tiny houses are going to lead to a transient type situation of building a neighborhood and a home. You know, this is Sweet Home. This isn’t Portland, you know, we don’t need little 7000 square foot properties, the 8000, which used to be upward, they changed the size requirement a little bit better. When I did my annexation, and division. It was 1000 square feet. My neighbor Arthur’s was also 8000 square feet. We’re like where did 7000 come from? Apparently it was changed from 2022 down to 7000 square feet. Yeah. And so that’s, that’s a concern, to have that many houses on this development, that many people crammed into that space that has historically been all open field. 90% of the properties around it are larger properties, anywhere from a third of an acre, up to 40 acres. You know, there’s a lot of open space in that area. And this has no open space in this development,”

Cindy Hovater resides at 955, 35th Avenue. “I live it. I live at the little square there at the end of 45th Avenue. And I did have public works come out. And they had to dig another trench because the water was filling up over the culvert. And on the other side of the street, it was filling up. I have to say they were awesome to me. I didn’t have any problems. They were there like that. And did a good job of it even though their tractors sank, about a foot into the dirt, because it is saturated. It is so spongy, you walk out in the yard, and you go down at least two inches. So as far as the water table, I’d say it’s closer to floodplains.”

Residents also raised issues regarding the lack of pedestrian and bicycle access ways, emphasizing the need for comprehensive infrastructure development to support the growing community.

Despite the multitude of concerns brought forth by residents, the Planning Commission remained committed to addressing citizen concerns and ensuring that development projects align with both regulatory requirements and community needs.

The meeting concluded with a decision to continue the public hearing to March 7th, allowing for further deliberation on unresolved issues and ensuring comprehensive review before final approvals are granted.