At the Planning Commission on Tuesday, an appeal of a proposed development out south has to grapple with our history of disinvestment and the way we fail to apportion the costs of development properly.
|Bike and Walk Salem at a doubtful Planning Commission, 2011|
Both cases show ways that we have systemic trouble with the edges of the city and the edges of our roads.
|Woodscape development at center. Battle Creek Road|
on diagonal, to be improved; Reed/Boone at upper left elbow,
just south of Kuebler, left unimproved
Battle Creek Road at Eastlake Drive, looking north
Goat trail on west side; no bike lanes.
Linear "park" and path going west at gate.
|from the appeal, pt 1|
|But no sidewalks here|
Reed Lane / Boone Road SE, looking west
on the south side of the old Pringle School of 1921
...the greatest impacts to the transportation system will occur along Battle Creek and required improvements along Battle Creek will mitigate these impacts...requiring improvements to Boone Road and Reed Lane would be disproproportionate to the transportation impacts of Parcel 1, which is already developed, and such improvements are not warranted...the development [parcel 1] was originally constructed at a time before street improvements were required as a condition of development... [and] the City [cannot] impose those improvements to mitigate development that ocurred over 30 years ago.Public Works Fails to Support Sidewalks
However, the memo from Public Works on which the decision depends is rather vague and doesn't address the retroactive aspect:
Perhaps more crucially, there is a disconnect between talk about "within the subdivision" in the SRC cited and "boundary street improvements" which are not "within" the subdivision in the subsequent "findings." That looks like a bit of a non sequitur! (At any rate, three different SRC are referenced, and it's not clear how they all relate. Here's chapter 63 on subdivisions. Maybe some readers will have expertise here?)
Not a Case of a Big, Bad Developer
If we want to know why things don't work in Salem, this might be a good case. The developer is one of those in Salem who probably deserves the benefit of the doubt - and yet, things still aren't right.
The developer, John Miller, is married to a former mayor and director of Family Building Blocks, and should know all about the problems in getting sidewalks. He is redeveloping the old Pringle School to be "a lively destination marketplace" with "flexible Neighborhood Commercial zoning" and you'd think would want sidewalks to his commercial hub. He's also a principal in Sequential Pacific Biodiesel. His Wildwood group holds Mahonia Vineyard, Mahonia Nursery, and developed the East Pringle Innovation Center that currently houses Wandering Aengus and Fresh and Local Foods (formerly Organic Fresh Fingers). This is not shallow. You might not agree with every aspect of it, but it's working in pretty good faith the seam between commerce and sustainability. By Salem standards he's a capital-G-Green, someone seriously pushing the envelope here!
And yet, the City doesn't have systems in support of "doing the right thing" and it is apparently too costly. In protest of the appeal Miller writes:
The comments related to the review of the environmental issues...are especially disturbing given our company's stellar environmental record...The wildlife mentioned are actually seen and heard not just on the proposed site but in our adjacent existing development, Woodscape Glen, which includes hawk nesting boxes, a native plant demonstration area and carefully preserved native white oak and Douglas Fir. Comments in the letter...can easily be dismissed not just by existing protective regulations but by observing the bioswale that is in our existing development and dates from days that the City required stormwater to be put in underground pipes and we proposed and pioneered open faciliites.I'm sure hawk nesting boxes are a lot cheaper than a full sidewalk, curb, and gutters. But it's fair to point out that given the system we currently have, his companies are among the leaders of green development. He's not out to trash the land.
And still, it's not enough. We don't have the right systems in place to get the outcomes we all want. It's not just procedural, either. It seems unlikely that the rules haven't been applied correctly. It's that we don't have a system designed to ensure sidewalks, that make sidewalks and appropriately located development a genuine and urgent priority.
Whether the Neighborhood Association prevails here - and on the surface, from here it looks like they will have a hard case to make - the bigger problem is that we need to change our systems.
An Annexation and Upzoning
Also on the agenda is an annexation and zoning case. Right off Swegle and Cordon Road is a parcel seeking to be annexed and a zoning change from Single-Family Residential to Multi-Family Residential.
It sure seems like we should be prioritizing the development of walkable, transit-friendly parcels inside the city limits, and should just simply forget about upzoning parcels not inside the city.
This is a great example of why we need to focus on redeveloping the North Campus of the State Hospital, Fairview, Boise, and the O'Brien parcels in downtown, and forget about this stuff on the edges of the city, especially when it is already outside the city and will require investments in city infrastructure. It's not sustainable - not environmentally, not fiscally.
The Planning Commission meets Tuesday, May 6th, from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM, at City Hall in Council Chambers, 555 Liberty St SE, Room 240,