Crowfoot Area Residents Lament Subdivision Proposal

Residents in the Crowfoot Road-Central Avenue area gave public testimony regarding their opposition to a planned subdivision during the April 17 Planning Commission meeting. They extolled the current beauty of nature and wildlife in the area and lamented the expected overcrowding from the development.

The commission held a public hearing for and approved the 122-lot subdivision on 26.62 acres at the south side of Crowfoot Road, east of Hillview Drive, that is referred to as “Hermans Farm,” but reportedly will be called “Samantha Meadows.” The project is proposed to be developed in three phases. Access to the nine-tract subdivision would be off Crowfoot Road. A secondary, emergency-use-only access point is proposed at Carroll Street.

The residents described sightings of foxes, pheasant, deer, birds, turkeys and other wildlife in their rural part of the city that they expect will disappear once the development is built.

Community Development Director Kelly Hart said a traffic study was done, given the size of the project. She reported the study included an analysis of the proposed intersection as well as the current Crowfoot Road-Central Avenue-Cascade Drive intersection. The findings were that traffic flow requirements based on Linn County and Lebanon standards would still be met during peak hours, and no mitigation measures were needed.

However, the study did identify improvements that could be made at the three-way intersection, which is within county boundaries, so the study was shared with the county. Another identified improvement is a stop sign at the subdivision intersection. The analysis identified nearly 1,100 new vehicle trips per day resulting from the development. Hart noted the subdivision will be developed over a number of years, so the traffic increase will be gradual.

Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlatch responded to a question from Commissioner Shyla Malloy, stating the improvements at the three-way intersection “should happen now,” adding that the city is currently actively working with the county to make improvements there.

“The problem is the cost,” he said. “We’re looking at grant alternatives and different things that we can do there to improve that intersection and we’ll continue to do so.”

An aerial shot showing where a subdivision off Crowfoot Road is planned.

Hart shared with the commission that the city received seven letters in opposition of the proposed development, and one letter that posed a lot of questions. She summarized the content of the letters which cited concerns regarding traffic and speed, loss of rural living, lot sizes, storm drainage, and strain on the city’s infrastructure.

“The city absolutely sympathizes that this is a rural community currently,” she said. “This is an area that is currently within city limits, it is within the urban growth boundary, and so per state law processes and per the city’s growth processes, this area is intended for urbanization.”

She clarified the development is intended for single family homes, townhouses and perhaps even zero lot line homes and duplexes, but it is not intended for apartments or heavy density. It is very similar to the Jadon Drive/Joy Street development.

As such, the proposal does meet the city code requirements.

Commissioner Marcellus Angellford noted minor deviations requested by the applicant, most of which asked for smaller lot sizes than the minimum standard. He asked Hart what would happen if the requests were denied, to which she responded there would be less lots, and that could result in the developer pulling out.

“But the deviations are generally intended to allow for the lots to sort of be designed around the wetlands, to preserve them to the greatest extent possible,” she said.

“Fewer lots, in my mind, equals more open space, so the open space justification seems maybe like it doesn’t align with increasing the housing density inside that area,” Angellford responded.

Laura LaRoque, of Udell Engineering & Land Surveying LLC, added to Hart’s explanation, stating that varying the lot sizes creates a more appealing visual layout “so it’s not that cookie cutter subdivision feel.” It also decreases the impact on the wetlands because denying the request for deviations would result in larger lots that would encroach on the surrounding wetlands.

Brian Vandetta, of Udell, addressed concerns anyone might have about drainage. Given the current topography of the area, most of the surface drainage affects the neighbors to the west, he said. As such and based on state laws, they knew they’d have to capture the upstream water and allow it to pass, as well as capture their internal storm waters and release them downstream.

Udell’s plan is to extend a storm pipe from the large ditch on the north side of Crowfoot Road. That means all of the storm water in the subdivision will be captured and piped down Crowfoot Road, he said.

“All of that water that was in the footprints of those lots currently drains onto the neighboring properties to the west, so they’ll see an improvement when this subdivision is built,” Vendetta said.

Steve Braught gave testimony opposing the development during public hearing. He talked about appreciating the wildlife in the area and the fact the animals will be pushed further out with more development. He also said he learned during a conversation with the developer that they plan to develop as many as 350 houses total in the future. Braught further said school teachers told him the classrooms are already overcrowded, and all that development would bring more children in.

Diana Braught also spoke, noting the loss of scenery and wildlife, and potential for worsened flooding as some of the reasons for her opposition. She also talked about current problems with increased traffic, shortage of grocery stores and overcrowded classrooms.

“It just seems like the city is not really keeping up with the growth that this town has suddenly came upon in the last several years,” she said. “It’s very sad to me that something that I have moved to and truly love, I feel like it’s just gonna be destroyed just because somebody wants to make a few bucks.”

A layout of the proposed subdivision off Crowfoot Road.

Amanda Penner, who is in the construction industry, told the commission there is an accident on Crowfoot Road every seven weeks. She also told them she doesn’t believe the small lot sizes shouldn’t qualify as a unique circumstance. They would, instead, create hardship on neighboring properties and wetlands, she added. Penner further brought forth questions about housing vacancy rates (9%) compared to the city’s expected growth rate (3%), the strain of more infrastructure on few city staff, school bus transportation safety and the current quality of the schools in the district.

“I just think that we should try to improve on what we have now and house the people now with what we’ve already built (rather) than approve this subdivision,” Penner said. “I do understand growth and I understand that growth is painful and it’s uncomfortable. I can support growth, but I do not support giving an inch and wanting to take a mile, which I think that’s exactly what this is.”

Resident Chad Hutchison also expressed concern about traffic, stating that in the 55 years he’s lived there, “Crowfoot Road has been a mess the whole time.” Speed isn’t so much the concern as turn lanes, bicyclists, animals and children, he said.

Commissioner David McClain said he could sympathize with those who spoke.

“I don’t want to see Lebanon explode, nobody does,” he said. “Most of us sitting up here have been here all our lives and I just want to say we know how you feel. But there are guidelines that we have to follow and things that we have to do whether we like to do it or not.”

Malloy agreed with McClain’s sentiment as did Angellford, who also pointed out the fact that property owners have the right to develop their property. He again brought up the requested deviations.

“That means they are wanting exceptions to the existing and established rules, and I don’t know that we have to grant those deviations,” Angellford said.

Commissioner Lori Gerig-Knurowski said she understood that the deviations were an effort to “be sensitive to the wetlands and preserving them and having open space.” McClain said he didn’t believe the developers were being too unreasonable in their request. Hart then clarified that the deviations may be allowed if the proposal outweighs adverse impacts. The question is, she said, what are the adverse impacts of the reduction requests versus the benefit associated with the project as a whole?

The findings in the staff report indicate the proposed modifications “provide the flexibility in the design of the lot to build around the wetlands to preserve as much of it in place,” in addition to amenities such as trails and recreational areas, she said.

A roundabout by Walmart has been added to the Transportation System Plan.

In other business, the commission:

  • Held a public hearing for and approved an amendment to the Transportation System Plan to incorporate the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Weldwood and Cascade drives;
  • Voted to keep Don Robertson as chair and Gerig-Knurowski as vice chair;
  • Appointed Gerig-Knurowski and Malloy to a project advisory committee for development code updates associated with the implementation of the Housing Production Strategy.