Though we have a couple of years to make the code changes to bring Salem's zoning in conformance with the new State law, HB 2001, its passage and future impacts might be the best lens now for considering new developments.
Council meets on Monday and they will be reviewing a 34-lot subdivision on Salem Heights at Winola, "Wren Heights." Though it's a proposal for 34 single-family houses, now, it could be over 120 four-plex homes in 2022! Doesn't that have to change the way we look at proposals now?
|Salem Heights at Winola, looking west:|
No sidewalks, but lots of trees (2018)
|A new subdivision would create connections with Winola |
and would also help avoid some of the steep hills here
(green = low traffic, red = the terrible stretch of Liberty,
from the Salem Area bike map)
Rejoinders to much of the criticism during the last round remain in effect this time:
The transportation claims in the appeal are all about an exaggerated sense that 38 new lots [the previous project concept!] will cause a tremendous increase in traffic. It also focuses on problematic east-west connectivity for walking and biking along Salem Heights as a substandard collector street. (It's pretty rustic and rural!) It's true that Salem Heights here lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. But the real benefit in the project is not primarily any new east-west sidewalks or bike lanes. As it is, the old street cross section offers traffic calming. A new one with sidewalks will also be wider and zoomier. (Be careful what you ask for! It may be that existing conditions are not unambiguously inferior.)With the proposed connections to Felton and Doughton, it becomes an easy bike trip down Missouri to Roth's for groceries. That's the lower-traffic east-west connection! So on balance I see filling in this wooded void with a road system offers many more benefits than costs on the transportation side.
No, the benefit is new north-south connectivity along low-traffic local streets....
So any argument about the development degrading walking and biking is specious. And while the upper estimate of 300-some new trips generated by the development might sound like a lot, they will easily be absorbed by the street system. Neighborhood bikeways are recommended for low-traffic streets of no more than 1500 trips per day, and collectors accommodate considerably more. 300 or even 400 will be an increase, but not a dramatic one.
Anyway, if the development now is not approved, the developer might just wait a few years to build plexes on it. It seems to me that even without current code changes, the future offered by HB 2001 already changes the way the Planning Commission and Council will approach NIMBY type criticism of projects.
We will see. Salem Reporter has more discussion of it at "Council to talk library's future, 34-lot subdivision on Monday." There's a lot of public comment, and maybe some new criticism will emerge; if so, we'll update here.
|This at least gives the appearance of thoroughness|
Here, it is interesting that the former Statesman Journal site, just across the street from the downtown transit center, had "access" problems? That would have been a great site! (And in a Belluschi!) There's more access there than at the current Civic Center site. Citing "access" is a funny critique of it - unless, of course, you mean by "access" only car trips and a parking structure immediately adjacent. Since it had a printing plant, I assume that freight access was not a problem.
It would be nice to have more detail on assessments. We know from the SRC that the City is willing to play fast and loose with facts sometimes in order to shape process to a desired outcome. We also know that the City Librarian has been very, very dodgy about her weeding project. So who would blame you if you looked at these site assessments and didn't trust them? Has the City analyzed them in good faith? Or is this another bogus process? More detail in the Staff Report would help.
Not very relevant here, but interesting nonetheless, are several proposed conversions of jobs from part-time without benefits to various fractions of FTE with benefits as part of a Pay Equity analysis.
And a few bullets:
- Council affirmed the Planning Commission on an apartment complex out on south Liberty Road.
- Though it appears to have become moot, with a new plan for the Ike Box to stay in place and purchase the building, there is an information report on the Ike Box approvals for the other plan of moving the building across the street.
- And there is the creation of a Resillience Task Force.
In response to the appellants claims about Salem Heights being unsafe, the applicants hired a traffic engineer to respond.
They underscore that the roads will easily absorb the new traffic:
the proposed development will add 68 daily trips to an existing local street (Missouri Avenue S). This is well below the threshold [triggering a formal traffic impact study] of 200 daily trips identified for local streets or alleys. The proposed development will also add 204 daily trips to a collector street (Salem Heights Avenue S). This is also well below the threshold of 1,000 daily trips identified for collectors, minor arterials, major arterials and parkways.More interesting is the safety analysis.
First, they show that the crash rate here - not count, but rate - is well below Oregon averages. So, relatively speaking, Liberty and Salem Heights is a "safe" intersection.
|The crash rate at Liberty is below average|
|Agrees on a net benefit for walking and biking|
So what the road may need is traffic calming, not widening with sidewalks and bike lanes.
In the end, most of the criticism in the letters boils down to not wanting change.
But if questions about trees are offered in good faith, a thought experiment is whether people would be ok with some number of plexes deployed in ways to preserve the biggest trees to give a net increase in the number of homes, but a decrease in lot coverage? It could be possible to increase density while also preserving more tree coverage.
Addendum 2, Sunday
|The Planning Decision on trees|
Addendum 3, Monday
There's a bunch of new public comment posted, and some is worth a little comment.
One of the appellants claims a City speed study found average speeds of 32 and 35mph in a 25mph zone. So the 85th percentile speed would be even higher.
The approval process for this development may not be the right place to address this, but the City should address this squarely. Speed is a substantive problem here. It's not the count of cars, the traffic amount, it's the speed of traffic that's a problem, and neighbors are right to complain.
|An appellant claims a speed study was conducted|
|A proposal for a traffic divertor!|
|Applicant's lawyer responds|
|from the original decision under appeal|