April 24, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Public sees problems in proposed greenway changes; council to vote July 12

3 min read
Jon Belcher points out three issues remaining after the planning commission unanimously voted to approve on March 14, 2023.

The city council hears public comment about the Willamette Greenway. City manager Sarah Medary introduces the topic on June 20:

City Manager Sarah Medary: The proposed amendments to the land use code that you’re hearing about tonight were unanimously recommended for approval by the Eugene Planning Commission and are intended to update Eugene’s Willamette River Greenway permit approval process to provide a set of clear and objective approval criteria for the review of proposed housing development within the greenway.

[00:00:25] You held a work session on this topic on May 10. Tonight is a public hearing only.

[00:00:30] John Q: After Phil Farrington requested an exemption for two properties, the council heard public comment from Jon Belcher.

[00:00:37] Jon Belcher: Thank you. Although I’m the co-chair of the River Road Community Organization and co-chair of the community advisory committee for the neighborhood planning process, and also one of the co-chairs of the committee that’s reviewed the greenway, my comments today are as an individual.

[00:00:55] First of all, again, thanks to the planning staff and planning commission for taking the extensive time to develop this packet. There’s a lot to like:  Better tree preservation removal standards, the concept of a native vegetation buffer, etc., etc.

[00:01:09] But the devil is in the details, and I want to mention three places where I think there need to be improvements.

[00:01:15] First of all is the problematic effect of two paths for the Willamette Greenway permit. Currently there is a discretionary path. That has been fairly ineffective, particularly for residential applicants, because the language that’s in that code is what was given to us by the state, and it talks about ‘to the maximum degree practical’ or ‘whenever possible.’ I’m paraphrasing. And when a permit gets to the hearings official, they can’t deal with it. So they basically approve whatever is requested. That’s the first problem.

[00:01:52] The second problem is the clear and objective path is only available if you are applying for a residential permit, so 57% of the permits we’ve had over the past 15 years aren’t residential, and the clear and objective standards would not apply at all there.

[00:02:09] So what to do? I suggest that either the prescriptive path be removed from the code—but staff doesn’t like that idea. Instead, I suggest that staff be directed to write the code that adds the clear and objective criteria to the prescriptive path, so whichever way you go, you’ll still have to meet those new criteria.

[00:02:31] The other two areas of concern are, there’s a 10-foot native plant and landscape buffer zone proposed. Again, because the clear and objective criteria only apply to residential lands, the vast majority of where that setback is is in public land, so it basically is never going to happen.

[00:02:53] The third concern that I have is public versus private paths. Staff has suggested language that would only allow ‘pedestrian paths and other public access ways.’ That should say ‘public pedestrian paths and access ways.’ There’s already been one path built across the greenway and the city’s parks to a gated community. I think it’s appropriate that you make sure that that’s not (private pedestrian paths), ones that are only accessible to people living in that facility. Thank you.

[00:03:28] John Q: There’s still time to share your thoughts about the greenway.

[00:03:33] City Manager Sarah Medary: Testimony will continue to be collected and provided to the city council in batches. Deliberations are scheduled for July 12.

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