A neighborhood meeting about a proposed 147-unit apartment complex near Timber Ridge Elementary School on Thursday night garnered a lot of questions.
Some were easy to answer: Why is the development being built on that property? Because I&E, the company that is developing the property, owns the land. Other questions were more complicated.
Representatives from Multi-Tech Engineering, the company hired by I&E to handle certain aspects of the project, were on hand Thursday night to field residents’ questions about the three-story complex planned for the Southwest corner of Timber Ridge Street and Somerset Drive. Approximately 30 single-family homes were originally planned for the property before it changed hands last year.
“Why not houses?” was the first, and most frequent, question during the meeting that ran its entire allotted hour in the cafeteria of Timber Ridge Elementary.
Brandi Dalton, a land use planner with Multi-Tech Engineering, said that the developer preferred apartments.
The property is zoned for apartments as well as single-family units, according to Melissa Anderson, senior planner for the city of Albany.
Confusion over the process of land use and development in the city caused tension and rapid-fire questions over issues of water, sewer, traffic and child safety.
“Are we going to wait until kids get hit by a car and then deal with it because that’s how it feels,” said Liz Hernandez, an area resident who said her main concern was traffic control and her children’s safety.
Her comments collected echoes of concern over the potential traffic impact of 147 apartments and the vehicles associated with their residents.
“The unpopular truth is traffic has to get worse before you put a light in,” said Multi-Tech engineer Natalie Janney. “Signals don’t go in and then development goes in. Development goes in and then signals go in.”
The order in which development happens and the city’s responsibility in managing development was also a point of contention. Anderson noted several times that the property was privately owned and not city-owned; that means, she said, that the city has little say in shaping the project as long as the developer meets clear and objective requirements set by the city.
She also addressed questions about school capacity noting that the city has no criteria that would deny a development based on available room in area schools.
A new Timber Ridge Elementary is in the process of being built in the area of the proposed development and, when completed, will hold 600 students.
Several of the dozen neighbors who attended the meeting voiced concern over the area’s population growth with questions arising about the city’s overall projected growth. According to Portland State University population estimates the city is expected to hit 68,000 residents by 2035 and just over 90,000 by 2067.
Prior to being approved, I&E will have to submit a plan, complete with a traffic study and other criteria mandated by the city. Once the completed application is submitted, the city has up to 120 days to approve the project. Neighbors within a radius of up to 1,000 feet of the project will be notified by mail and have 14 days to submit written comment. Comments, Anderson noted, should be limited to criteria and not subjective issues.
Plans for the apartment complex include 84 two-bedroom units, 18 studios, 33 one-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units. According to Dalton, the apartments are planned to rent at market rate.