June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Business owners, community leaders question River Road/Santa Clara plan

14 min read
Jon Belcher said the River Road Santa Clara Neighborhood Plan "joins the South Willamette concept plan as the second time the city of Eugene has failed to meet their promise from Envision Eugene."

Business owners say the River Road/Santa Clara neighborhood plan will cost jobs.

Neighborhood leaders say the city pulled the plug on the project despite getting $550,000 in neighborhood and corridor planning.

And one planning commissioner now suggests sticking with the 1987 plan.

With public comment to the city and county Oct. 17:

Kevin Journey: Hi, this is Kevin and Lora Journey. We’re a small business owner that employs roughly 18 people. We are Action Rent-All. This summer we purchased three and a half acres next to us to be able to, intentions of developing and expanding our business for our future and to be able to offer River Road/Santa Clara residents a better experience with more room and products.

[00:00:47] If the code amendments are allowed to happen, it will force our business to look for new property that will allow us to carry all our current inventory and expand to meet the needs and better serve our customers. Our recent property purchase will then need to be sold at a loss because of the devaluation from the new limitations of the code and amendments.

[00:01:10] Currently, 90% of our heavy equipment rentals and 30% of our catering rentals are from or used in the River Road/Santa Clara area. I do not see a plan for the amount of new congestion that will be put on River Road and the Beltline for people to travel to an outside rental yard. This goes against the anti-sprawl, self-sufficient neighborhood plans and goals of less auto transportation.

[00:01:39] The north side of River Avenue abuts the Beltline with medical offices buildings, heavy equipment rental yards, Eugene dialysis, post office, boat dealerships, used car lots, storage facility, marijuana dispensaries, a large storage facility, and across the street you have the sewer treatment plant along with a homeless navigation center. This, to me, is not a walkable neighborhood.

[00:02:05] Where else would you want me to be? The code amendment suggests Action Rent-All is not good enough for our area, but does not belong, but does not make provisions where we should go or can go. Action Rent-All hasn’t been proudly serving the River Road/Santa Clara area and surrounding area for 50 years with no complaints. Why are we not good enough for River Road/Santa Clara? Now we provide a very valuable service to local residents.

[00:02:36] We did not have enough time to prepare for this and are limited on our information, but can tell you when we went door-to-door to inform people about what is going on, we had an overwhelming support against this change. The people have not been informed or do not understand the impact. Until this is explained, I welcome you to go to the River Road/Santa Clara Facebook page and read the 39 comments and 13 likes we got in three days of posting this change.

[00:03:04] Bill Kloos: I’m Bill Kloos. I’m speaking tonight as a part of the Action Rent-All team.

[00:03:08] I’d like to make four points. First is that this is not a land use plan. Any land use plan has to have a minimum of components or elements, according to statewide planning Goal 2. And this does not have those.

[00:03:21] Second point: This is not a refinement plan in the meaning of the metro plan. It does not refine any more general plan. There are no binding land use policy statements. Actually the binding nature of everything it does say is disavowed in terms of site-specific decisions.

[00:03:42] My third point is that the repeal of the existing refinement plan is simply not warranted. There is really no analysis in the new plan of what’s wrong with the old plan. The binding policies for the neighborhood are not being replaced by anything else.

[00:03:58] There’s no plan diagram. Somebody forgot the plan diagram! Every requirement plan I’m familiar with has a plan diagram that refines and makes more specific than a metro plan diagram. Very important. The refinement plan diagram is not being replaced by anything else.

[00:04:13] The problem with that is that the refinement plan allows people to figure out what their property is plan-designated, which allows them to make applications with confidence and get approvals with confidence. Without the refinement plan, we’re all stuck with the metro plan, which is inherently ambiguous. That leads to arguments, that leads to litigation, and that’s only good for the attorneys. So, this thing needs a diagram, and it needs binding policies.

[00:04:43] Point number four. The code changes for C-2 are not well advised. Simply put, the amendments will take six uses, prohibit them, and move them to somebody else’s neighborhood. It doesn’t say what neighborhood should get them. Maybe some thought should be given to that.

[00:05:00] Teresa Bishow: My name is Teresa Bishow. I’m here tonight on behalf of Action Rent-All and Events.

[00:05:07] Earlier today, I did submit testimony that examined the land use decisions that were rendered in the 36-year time period since the plan was adopted. And one thing of interest is that of the 714 land use decisions that required consistency with the applicable refinement plan, there were only four applications to amend the refinement plan during that 36-year period. In contrast, there were 176 zone changes.

[00:05:43] To me, what that says is: It’s not broken. (It says) that the zone changes that required consistency with the refinement plan were by and large approved, following annexation to the city of Eugene. The policies in many cases provided more detailed land use designations and text policies that affected the outcome of the decision.

[00:06:09] So I just caution you about repealing what is truly a refinement plan for the neighborhoods and replacing it with a different type of document.

[00:06:19] With regard to the code amendments, they’re not consistent with statewide Goals 2 and (Goal) 9. They’re not consistent with the recently adopted Envision Eugene. There are economic policies that were adopted to support the retention and expansion of local businesses, as well as businesses that have sustainable climate-friendly provisions or aspects to them.

And a rental company is one of the best businesses for supporting reuse and more effective use of our resources by, you don’t use a tool and then keep it in your garage for two years until you need to use it again. You can go to the nearby rental place and check it out for the weekend.

[00:07:11] So their use is being recommended to be prohibited, the heavy equipment rental component. They have diversified their business to include other uses that will remain permitted. But they had also anticipated possibly doing storage facilities.

[00:07:29] We shouldn’t be undoing or repealing the adopted land use policies that are currently in effect.

[00:07:36] William Dickinson: My name is William Dickinson and I represent ALL-MED Medical Equipment and W. Dickinson Properties. I’m in opposition to the plan. I have to admit, I’ve only received a letter two weeks ago that this was even in process. And so I’ve really had limited time to prepare, but I can tell you, as I’ve read the plan now, it negatively affects my business’s ability to help people with vehicle adaption and medical equipment issues.

[00:08:06] Chuck Meeker: I’m Chuck Meeker, and I oppose this change that you’re trying to make out on the River Road and the Santa Clara area. I am the former owner of Clemens Marina, which was established in 1958, which was 65 years ago. My wife and I purchased that in 1978, and that was 45 years ago. We wanted to move that location to be able to own our own property, so we went down to the city planners and said, Hey, what kind of property do I have to have to sell and service boats?

[00:08:38] They said that I had to have C-2, C-3 property, or a conditional use permit on something of less. So in 1982, we purchased property at 309 and 311 River Avenue. And in the year 2000, we built a new building on that property and we really stuck our neck out for the price of that building. And I talked to the engineer and I said, ‘You know, we may not be able to pack that overload by ourselves.’

[00:09:10] So we talked about it and he suggested that I rewire that building with all the plumbing and stuff in the floor that could be stubbed up and we could separate that building into six different rentals. Thankfully, we never had to use that option.

[00:09:24] About the boat brands that we sell: Alumaweld, they’re manufactured in Medford, Oregon. They employ 40 people. Pro Steelheaders are manufactured in Grants Pass. That’s a special, I’ll say, private label for us, they employ 12 people. North River Boats are manufactured in Roseburg, Oregon, and they employ 144 people. Hewescraft Marine, which is manufactured in Colville, Washington, employ 204 people.

[00:09:55] EZ Loader Trailers, which is a brand that we sell, employ 300 people, and they’re made in Washington. With the 31 employees at Clemens Marina and those numbers that I just gave you, that’s 731 people that are getting paychecks off of what we do for them.

[00:10:10] All the products that we sell are recyclable. They’re made out of aluminum or steel, the boat’s aluminum, the trailer’s steel or aluminum option, the motor is also aluminum and stainless steel. You can take all those products at the end of their lifetime and you can take and recycle that and make pop cans out of it or frying pans or whatever you want to make.

[00:10:40] Thirdly, the boat packages that we put together, which in the marine industry is called rigging, we have three options of motors. The large motor on that boat is really expensive with today’s new technology. It’s called ‘lean burn computer control’ and those motors can cost $35,000 or more. So we encourage the person that’s buying this package To buy a smaller trolling motor, which gets a really efficient fuel mileage, and they only cost $3,500 to $4,000 depending on if it’s electric start, power trim and tilt, or so on. They are very popular, and they use way less fuel. More and more motors are being reused and we’re selling as electric trolling motors.

[00:11:29] Just to let these people know how fuel efficient these motors are, we ran a 99 Yamaha in our test tank on one gallon of gasoline. It ran for 12 hours and 33 minutes. Now this is about as environmentally-friendly industry as you can think of.

[00:11:48] Mike Reeder: My name is Mike Reeder. I am an attorney here in town and I represent Chuck and Pat Meeker, the Meeker family, and Clemens Marina. Their property and business are located on River Avenue, not to be confused with River Road. This is the property that is wedged between the Beltline Highway and the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission treatment facility.

[00:12:12] My clients Clemens Marina employ between 12 and 16 full-time employees with above-average wages and salaries. And this proposal to remove RV boats and watercraft and motor vehicle sales and services is really not well thought out and…

[00:12:32] In addition to the legal issues that are outlined in the letter that you received today, the proposed code changes are not supported by the proposed River Road/Santa Clara plan or the current refinement plan or Envision Eugene comprehensive plan. So where are these ultimate policy choices coming from? We can’t tell.

[00:12:55] John Q: Neighborhood leaders say the plan is flawed.

[00:12:57] Hillary Kittleson: My name is Hillary Kittleson. I have lived in the River Road neighborhood for over 30 years and…worked hard to listen to our neighbors and then lobby for the initiation of the neighborhood plan. With an allocation of $100,000 from city contingency fund, the formal planning process began. At that time, the project timeline was supposed to be less than two years, and that was in 2017.

[00:13:22] The triple squeeze of COVID and dramatic middle housing code changes at the state and local levels has caused years of delay and reduced the plan’s scope. So I’m asking that the city mitigate the effects of the reduced scope by using one-time funds to address concerns expressed by the Citizen Advisory Committee and by the River Road Community Organization.

[00:13:47] For me, this is a socioeconomic equity issue that good land use planning can address. In high SES (socioeconomic status) neighborhoods, residents can have some assurance that ‘highest and best use’ will include basic amenities that contribute to a livable neighborhood. In mixed-SES areas, that assurance can only be given by government through its policies and codes.

[00:14:12] The concerns expressed by the RRCO board regarding potential loss of commercial properties is a good example. And here’s a quote from their letter: ‘Staff decision to eliminate the proposed corridor mixed use zone leave the majority of our current commercial properties in the C-2 commercial zone. This zone allows 100% of properties in the zone to be residential with no commercial at all. The eliminated corridor mixed use zone would have required commercial on the ground floor. ‘

[00:14:43] The economic study included in Sera Architects’ River Road Corridor Study showed that economic demand for housing is high, commercial low. So without regulation requiring it or some kind of incentive to encourage it, the commercial facilities we currently have may well be replaced by multifamily housing.

[00:15:06] My neighbors asked for walkable commercial areas back in the listening sessions in 2014 and continue to strongly support that concept in subsequent citizen input events. To respond to that strong value, I’m asking that you recommend to the city council and maybe the board of county commissioners use of one-time funds to create a neighborhood-specific zone to protect the neighborhood and provide the equity it deserves.

[00:15:37] If citywide changes are subsequently made that protect all neighborhoods, the zone could be eliminated.

[00:15:44] Jon Belcher: I am Jon Belcher and although I’m co-chair of the River Road Community Organization and the Community Advisory Committee to the River Road Santa Clara Neighborhood Planning Group, I’m speaking as an individual tonight.

[00:15:56] It’s extremely unfortunate that COVID-19 took a multiyear bite out of our project because we lost the exemplary trajectory of our neighborhood member involvement, and it likely was a factor of the loss of three principal city planners during the six-year interval of this process.

[00:16:12] It’s also unfortunate the planning department pulled the plug on this process before we could reach consensus on a final draft of the plan that met the original goals of the planning process.

[00:16:22] For example, the neighborhood plan project charter signed by the two neighborhoods of city of Eugene and Lane County define the deliverables of this project, including a more detailed approach along the River Road corridor, as informed by the related FTA TOD grant-funded project. That was not part of the plan.

[00:16:41] Also, a primary reason for area this area plan was to meet the goals of Envision Eugene and the Envision Eugene livability draft proposal March 2011: ‘Create area plans that integrate land use, transportation, parking, parks, and open space, and existing historical and cultural resources throughout the urban area, recognizing the unique characteristics of each area, and provide localized consideration and treatment and planning as necessary in the land use code.

[00:17:10] Until planning staff decided to abandon the corridor study, which was informed by a $450,000 grant from the Federal Transportation Authority, we were working towards drafting a special area zone that would meet the primary goal of creating a 20-minute neighborhood along the corridor and enhanced commercial opportunities therein.

[00:17:28] So the agreement from the project charter has not met River Road Santa Clara Area Plan, and it joins the South Willamette concept plan as the second time the city of Eugene has failed to meet their promise from Envision Eugene.

[00:17:42] Instead the planning staffs are proposing to develop a single set of code that will cover Franklin Boulevard, West 11th Avenue, West 6th and 7th Avenue, Highway 99, South Willamette Street, River Road and Coburg Road.

[00:17:54] Our experience has made it clear with trying to develop it along River Road that the devil is in the details and it seems highly unlikely to me that a single set of code will please anyone. I raise this concern because this planning process has failed to address three key areas that were defined in the River Road Community Organization’s response.

[00:18:15] John Q: In addition to specific corridor plans, he also identified on-street parking and the potential loss of local businesses.

[00:18:26] Lane County Planning Commissioner Stephen Dignam: It causes me a little concern when someone such as Jon Belcher, who’s been involved with the process for a long time, he never actually said he was opposed at the start of his comments, but I took his comments to mean that he was opposed.

[00:18:40] So anyway, just causes me a little concern that someone as knowledgeable in planning and who’s been involved for this long is opposed.

[00:18:49] That was a tremendous amount of really good public comment this evening. I really appreciate the insights that folks brought. I was particularly caught by the testimony of Teresa Bishow, Bill Kloos, and Mike Reeder, who all seemed to ask really pointed questions, and I just, I ask and hope that staff will try to address the comments made by those three in particular before our Lane County deliberations.

[00:19:25] Lane County Planning Commissioner Bruce Hadley: To reiterate what others have said, I guess the objections nearly all come from the commercial side, specific businesses that claim that this proposed plan will hamper their ability to do business and to grow. And I would like staff to respond as specifically as possible: If we forward this plan, what does that do to Clemens Marina? What does that do to the Rent-All company? So as much in terms of nuts and bolts, why is every business lined up against this thing? And why are we only hearing from them now after this many years?

[00:20:10] Eugene Planning Commissioner Dan Isaacson: What we’re proposing here doesn’t have any teeth. There’s nothing in it that is the word ‘shall,’ right? It is a (essentially) Christmas tree list. It is what we envision for Eugene. We want these things to occur on River Road. We’ve taken essentially out all of the parts of the plan over the past five years that would have any specific teeth to it.

[00:20:31] So is there a reason why we can’t layer the action plan on top of the existing 1987 plan and roll forward, which does have teeth, does have a site-specific map associated with it. So businesses can plan things out.

[00:20:45] As we’ve heard from businesses before, they bought these places years in advance, based on their growth plan. And businesses to thrive need two things: They need to have stability and they need to have planning. And if they can’t know that the planning—that the plan that they bought is going to be useful 20 years, 30 years from now, it’s going to be very difficult for them to thrive.

[00:21:08] And thriving businesses is one of the key components of what we’re here for. So, if we could have an argument back to that, that would be great as well.

[00:21:15] John Q: Businesses say the neighborhood plan will cost jobs and force them out. Where are they supposed to go? And Jon Belcher says River Road/Santa Clara joins South Willamette as another failure by city planners.

Eugene’s planning commission is expected to discuss the city’s response on Nov. 14.

In addition to business owners, many other residents also provided public comment Oct. 17 on the River Road Santa Clara Neighborhood Plan. Because multiple speakers were cut off due to technical difficulties during the meeting, we are seeking complete versions of those comments from the participants.

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