January 26, 2023

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Councilor Keating hears that taller buildings would endanger migratory birds

4 min read
With Skinner Butte a popular rest stop for migrating birds, Gerry Meenaghan expresses concern that allowing taller buildings would contribute to the ongoing bird die-off.

At the Southeast Neighbors board Jan. 10, a look at what’s coming up on the city council.

[00:00:07] Councilor Matt Keating: Hi. I apologize for my tardiness. I was texting with (Southeast Neighbors co-chair) Devon (Mann) that I had just gotten home from work, so it’s been a couple long days in Salem. I was up in the Capitol today on mandatory trainings and entertaining meetings on behalf of Sen. Manning.

[00:00:22] And yesterday participated in and witnessed the swearing-in of our governor, Gov. Kotek. And it was an historic day, and swearing in-day is always a fun day to be at the Capitol.

[00:00:34] As you know, last night council met, we voted on leadership for the next year. I’m pleased to report, as I’m sure you’re aware, I remain in leadership position and I applaud Councilor Groves stepping up into a leadership role. He’ll be serving as council president. I’ll be serving a second term as council vice-president.

[00:00:57] On the docket, there’s a public hearing on Jan. 17 on the Skinner Butte Height Amendment. This may have slid under the radar of some, so you I want to draw your attention to it.

[00:01:12] City Council is going to hold a public hearing to consider an ordinance concerning the height of the Skinner Butte limitation area, which would amend section 9.6715 and Figure 9.67153 of the Eugene City Code 1971.

[00:01:28] You can read about the proposed ordinance online. While I welcome more housing, that would be a significantly tall building right in front of the butte. Just if I could from memory describe where that would be, roughly between the train station and where Buffalo Exchange exists right now, there would be a building so high that it would require us to adjust our height amendment.

[00:01:54] With housing in mind. I’m leaning towards support, but I want to hear from the community and from constituents first before making a decision on that front.

[00:02:02] John Q: With a question about the latest market district project from Brian Obie:

[00:02:08] Dennis Hebert (SEN co-chair): Dealing with the housing, is it going to be some more high-end Obie housing?

[00:02:16] Councilor Matt Keating: If memory serves there was a work session on the matter. And I expressed concern that the so-called ‘market-rate houses’ are anything but affordable. So, while it may pencil out that it brings more housing to the area, these are likely, unaffordable dwellings. So I hope that paints a clear picture, Dennis.

[00:02:38] Dennis Hebert: Yeah, I think I’m quite aware of that.

[00:02:41] Councilor Matt Keating: It’s my understanding it would be a (Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption) MUPTE exemption so there wouldn’t necessarily be affordable housing units built on that site, but there would be dollars put toward the Affordable Housing Trust fund.

[00:02:52] Dennis Hebert: Gerry has a question.

[00:02:56] Gerry Meenaghan (Southeast Neighbors): It’s less of a question than just a small consideration from a, probably very much a minority constituency in the city.

[00:03:03] But whenever I think of Skinner Butte, I, as a diehard birder, think of its popularity in May as a migration destination for thousands upon thousands of migrating birds that come up the Pacific Flyway. It’s called a ‘migrant trap’ because it’s this bump in the middle of the city, and so when birds are migrating through, they come down in there and land and circle around the butte.

[00:03:28] And so in any day in late April through about June 1, you’ll see umpteen birders up there looking for all these migrants. And if you’ve tracked these topics—and I know it’s a kind of a niche ecological topic here, but–more buildings, more lights, it all comes down to bird collisions and bird death.

[00:03:52] And we’re experiencing in the world, and I know, again, it may not be something you follow, but it a massive die-off of birds during migration due to issues like building height and lighting.

[00:04:04] I just mention it ’cause it’s dear to my heart, but it’s just a, you know, small kind of thing to keep in mind and weighing that against our city’s housing needs, I know that’s a tough comparison, but, just something to mention.

[00:04:15] Councilor Matt Keating: That’s exactly the kind of testimony that I long to hear, please. So, if you have the time to submit written testimony or appear on Jan. 17 for the public hearing, via Zoom or in person, that’d be welcome and appreciated.

[00:04:29] Annexation withdrawals, floodplain development code amendments, renter protections, phase two of the renter protections will be in front of us in late February.

[00:04:40] And work sessions around the corner: the fossil fuel risk bonds, a gas stations work session that I had floated a poll for (asking other councilors if they would be interested in the work session). For those of you don’t know, I’ve been concerned for some time about the amount of gas stations that are popping up in our community at a time when we should be encouraging folks to embrace alternative transportation.

[00:05:05] We clearly have carbon reduction goals and it’s a head-scratcher as to why more gas stations are popping up. And perhaps at the very least I can convince colleagues to embrace a buffer zone in regards to gas stations, but I look forward to that work session as well.

[00:05:24] John Q: Councilor Matt Keating hears that taller buildings near Skinner Butte endanger migrating birds. The public hearing is Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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