Linn County Commissioners John Lindsey and Will Tucker on Wednesday upheld a county Planning Commission decision to allow a variance for a property that would allow the construction of a single-family housing unit in Albany’s urban growth area.
As he had at last week’s initial hearing on the subject, Commissioner Roger Nyquist recused himself from the decision. Nyquist owns property near the land in question.
Tucker and Lindsey spent the past week reviewing materials pertaining to the variance application by Daniel and Sheila Headings for a 1.98-acre property at the intersection of Knox Butte Road and Scravel Hill Road.
Tucker made the motion, seconded by Lindsey, to uphold the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision.
Tucker said his research led him to believe the application complies with the county code.
The case was of note in part because the appeal to the county commissioners came from the city of Albany's Planning Department, which asked the commissioners to overturn the decision from the county Planning Commission. The city now has 14 days to file an appeal with the state.
In 1999, the Headings purchased the property at 454 Scravel Hill Road. They now want to divide it into two lots; one lot would be 1 acre and the other would be 0.98 acres. They want to build a home on the 1-acre lot, but doing so requires county approval for a partition and a variance, since county code calls for depth standards of at least 500 feet.
The current plan would have property depths of 231 feet.
August 9, County Planning Director Robert Wheeldon denied the variance and conditional use applications. His decision was appealed to the Linn County Planning Commission, which overturned his decision.
Last week, the Board of Commissioners heard an appeal by the city's Planning Department, asking that the commissioners uphold Wheeldon’s original decision.
The city believes the variance should not be approved because the property is in the urban growth boundary; is zoned 20-acre minimum; public utilities are not available and adding a home will require installation of a well and septic system; developing single properties may reduce incentives for property owners to eventually annex into the city; and developing properties may eventually lead to road access issues.
But the property owners and their representative said single-family homes are allowed in urban growth areas as long as the owners sign a nonremonstrance agreement to annexation and meet public health standards.
They also contended that the city’s long-term plans must be balanced with private property rights.
“The city of Albany acknowledges the county board’s decision,” said city spokeswoman Marilyn Smith. “As the appellant in this land use case, the City Council will need to decide the next step. The council will discuss options and implications in the near future.”
Commissioner Tucker said the city did not convince him that it has a long-term plan already developed for the area.
“Adding one house may not be the best long-term plan, but the city doesn’t have a plan yet,” Tucker said. “The Headings’ lot looks like any other surrounding it. It might open the flood gates in terms of applications, but for today, it’s a housing area.”