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Planners talk apartments and Stoltz Hill annexation

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

The Planning Commission discussed a proposed 24-unit apartment complex off Airport Road and approved the annexation of Stoltz Hill Road property during its April 19 meeting.
The commission held a public hearing for the three-story complex but tabled a decision pending further discussions on the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection. The property sits in a residential mixed-density zone on roughly one acre west of Stoltz Hill Road, north of Airport. Access would be off Stoltz Hill Road, avoiding traffic concerns on Airport Road.
Project-related documents indicate that the owners, Jaswant Sranna and Sona Athwal, also plan to reconstruct Grandpa’s Grocery, which sits directly across from the site on Airport.
The complex would consist of six studios, and 12 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments, with 46 vehicle parking spaces that equate to 1.92 spaces per unit.
Commissioner David McClain questioned the developer’s installation of 43 bicycle spaces in place of eight parking spots.
“That seems an excessive amount of bicycle parking for 24 apartments,” he said.
Community Development Director Kelly Hart explained that the city code allowed developers to earn a cost reduction with bicycle spaces. But, she continued, if the commission finds the code unreasonable, it can schedule a future discussion on the matter.
“It just seems like it’s a way for a developer to skirt around as many parking spots to save a few thousand dollars,” McClain said. “It just seems more of a cost-saving thing for the developer than a convenience thing for [its] residents. One of the issues that I have with that is that if you start limiting parking spaces in these apartment complexes, these people are going to be parking everywhere else.”
Considering the high cost of rent, McClain said he expected that multiple people would live together, which meant more vehicles per unit.
The applicant’s representative, Laura LaRoque of Udell Engineering & Land Surveying LLC, addressed some points for clarification. She explained that the city code required developers to install 2.25 parking spots per unit regardless of its size (but may, with limitations, install bicycle spaces in lieu of parking spots). That would mean 2.25 spots for every studio as well as for every three-bedroom. So, she said, if the planners wanted to change the code, they might consider altering the requirements based on unit size, which would also allow developers to potentially add more landscaping.
Also, LaRoque said, city code requires the children’s play area to be central to this development. The play area, she continued, could have been installed to the property’s north, which would mean room for more parking. However, that would violate the code.
“So when you take a look at parking issues,” she said, “I think it’s important to look at ‘Is what the code requiring actually meeting the needs based on the unit type?’ and providing maybe some more abilities for flexible development and adjustments to other development code standards if parking is what’s really important.”
The commission also discussed the city’s plans for a traffic signal at Airport and Stoltz Hill roads, a topic presented by Chair Don Robertson, who questioned whether occupancy at the complex should only be allowed following the signal’s installation. He said that could mean the developer had several million dollars “just sitting there” if the signal wasn’t ready in time.
Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlatch said the city would like the light installed before the complex became move-in ready, but he expects the project to be completed by the time the complex is completed. However, he noted, unforeseen obstacles could potentially delay that.
The commission concluded the session and moved to hold further signal-related discussions between staff and the developer at its May 17 meeting.

Property along Stoltz Hill Road was annexed.

The commission also held a public hearing for and approved the annexation of 2.6 acres off Stoltz Hill Road between Walker Road and Vaughan Lane in a residential mixed-density zone.
Larson Road resident Jeff Meek voiced concerns about a “serious increase of crime and dumping” in his area.
“I’m not here to stop progress,” he said. “We’re growing pretty fast; there’s nothing wrong with that.”
But he questioned whether the schools could handle the influx of new town arrivals and noted that the city jail was currently shuttered.
“It’s things like that I’m concerned about,” he said. “Can we handle this new growth? Our roads in the morning and evenings are getting seriously overcrowded. I’m for homes coming in, by all means, but if there are more apartments, I don’t know if Lebanon can really handle it on that side of town. We’re a lot of country folk out there. We like to shoot our guns. We like to have our dogs bark.”
Robertson stopped Meek to explain that his testimony seemed to be headed in a development-related direction, and that the city hadn’t received any development proposals for the property. A hearing would be scheduled, he said, if one came forward.