LC City Council: Turns down big housing development – denies annexation into the city – Serious fireworks over VRDs – New Taft Sports Park is looking pretty good!
Despite a long process of application, staff review, long meetings in front of both the city planning commission and the city council, when it came down to the moment of decision, the council rejected the project and its requested annexation into the city citing a number of issues. It was said that although it appeared to be a good project, its timing, segmented construction and traffic issues conflict with city and state land use goals.
The vote was three to one with Mayor Don Williams and Councilor Jim Davis barred from participating in the deliberations because they had received testimony and voted on the project when it was presented to them as members of the city planning commission. The law in such matters requires that all those voting on the council must have the same exposure to the project and have heard the same testimony by which to weigh their vote.
The third councilor barred from participating was Susan Wahlke who declared a conflict of interest because she was associated with the developer.
That left only four councilors left to vote on it.
The 71 unit Logan Road project, with single family, single family attached and apartments, would have been built in phases – the timing of those phases left up to the developer. There would would have been a roundabout access road from the north on Port Avenue and regular access to the development off Logan Road. Both those aspects troubled three of the four remaining qualified councilors.
Councilor Chester Noreikis led the charge claiming that the project made no sense since there was plenty of empty buildable lots all over Lincoln City – and that putting more lots on the market would depress even further the value of other lots. Noreikis also pointed out another aspect – that under state land use goals, no city should annex new lands while there are plenty of buildable lots already on the market inside the city limits. Noreikis also criticized the project for the fact that sewer and water lines would have to be extended to the project at great expense when sewer and water lines are already available to many vacant lots around the city – another violation of state land use goals.
Councilor Roger Sprague also chimed in pointing to many vacant lands – some with large acreages – like Palisades PUD, The Villages, and Taft Hill/Bayview, just to name a few. Sprague also claimed a traffic roundabout to be built to provide access to the project from the northwest was ill conceived. Councilor Kip Ward joined the chorus claiming the project lots were too small, would invite future vacation rental headaches and cause congestion along Logan Road at a blind corner as it bends toward the ocean.
But Councilor Wes Ryan weighed in saying although it wasn’t a perfect project it deserved to move ahead because it would cover over the forest clear-cut scar that everyone hates to look at on their way to the beach. And it has a good mix of housing – some of it probably qualifying as “affordable housing.”
And that’s the way it went into the vote. Voting to kill the project were Councilors Kip Ward, Chester Noreikis and Roger Sprague. The lone vote of support came from Councilor Wes Ryan.
City planning staff was asked to prepare a formal notice to the developer that the project and annexation was denied and that the council will formalize their rejection at their next city council meeting.
The city council came very close to formally approving the creation of what’s called a designated”VR” zone for vacation rentals along a strip on the west side of Lee from 30th north then dog-leg at Keel and then north to 39th.
Discussion between councilors made it obvious that everybody walked away from the last city council meeting thinking the map designating which lots were in the VR Zone and which were not, was settled – when it wasn’t. So the council spent time Monday night re-hashing the VR Zone boundaries, voting to bring it back to the council for final ratification during the council’s second meeting in May. That’s right, May. It’s the soonest that a clear majority of councilors can be on hand to vote on it because, as with the Logan Road development issue, Mayor Williams and Councilor Jim Davis heard testimony and voted on the VR Zone issue as planning commissioners, and so were disqualified from participating as city councilors on the issue Monday night. Conflicting schedules on the councilors left who are qualified pushed the next time to act on the VR Zone to May 25th.
By May 25th two things will have happened. A voter referendum that seeks to strike down the city’s new VRD laws will have been decided as well as an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals will have been ruled on as well. So to quote Yogi Berra again, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And “over” in this case may take a long time.
One rather bumpy wrinkle in the discussions over the VRD issue came early in the meeting when three individuals testified during an agenda item called “Public Comment.” During that “public comment” period, when the public can bring up any matter that comes to their mind, those three individuals began testifying about their properties that they wanted to be included in the VR Zone and why – one testifying that one property left out of the zone was one where his wife works as a housekeeper and that the family couldn’t take the hit to their monthly income.
City Attorney Richard Appicello reminded the Mayor and the Council that the public testimony should be ignored totally – that it came after the legal closing of all public testimony and evidence brought before the council bearing on the VRD issue. He reminded Mayor Don Williams, right before each person spoke, that such testimony violated the laws of evidentiary hearings and that it forced the council to violate a procedural stricture that there be no further testimony be heard after the (nearly three year) hearing process was formally ended by a unanimous vote of the council at an earlier meeting. Yet Mayor Williams allowed the testimony to go on anyway – at the end of which Mayor Williams told each speaker individually, “Thank you, I appreciate it.”
One citizen came up to the microphone and angrily criticized Appicello for trying to undermine the public’s right to speak up when they want to have their say on an issue. Appicello sat silent as did the rest of the council.
When it came time to set a date for final deliberations on the VR Zone, Appicello said it will be necessary to make sure the council deliberations come early in the meeting of May 25th so that there be no public comment period prior to those deliberations – that the rules had been violated and that they should not be given a chance to be violated again. The council agreed with Appicello’s direction.
As indicated earlier in this city council story, both Councilor Jim Davis and Mayor Williams were late told they could not, by law, participate in the VR Zone discussions as members of the city council because of their prior role in deliberating the VR Zone issue as planning commissioners. The idea is that former planning commissioners don’t get to serve on both bodies and have a second opportunity to heavily influence the outcome of an important city issue.
Council gives go ahead to combine grants and city resources to create a Taft park complex on SE 51st.
And finally, the city council again reviewed a plan to create a large city park and enclosed sports and recreation facility at the former Taft Elementary School site on SE 51st. Artist drawings show a large covered tennis court that could also accommodate basketball and other sporting events. Also contemplated is a softball diamond, picnic area, dog park and other amenities all graced with maximized natural vegetation to keep down the cost of maintaining the overall facility. But there will be lots of lawn area to be sure including a soccer field, but it may take time to eventually grow it to regulation size. The school district, which is selling the property to the city said it’ll take time for them to move their school bus parking and maintenance area off the property.
The cost to create the new park and facilities is expected to run around $1.25 million. But the city’s cost will ring in at just $350,000 – the price for the land it’ll pay to the school district. One part of the remaining cost will be paid through a gift from the estate of a wealthy Lincoln City resident who wants the city to build a covered tennis facility. The rest of the money will come from a grant from State Parks.
The council was unanimously enthusiastic about the project and told city staff to work out all the details and to report back their progress at getting it all financed and built.