The Corvallis City Council waded into the transportation system update Monday night in the wake of a recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission that the proposal be rejected.
The city has been working on its update for four years, spending $1.3 million in Oregon Department of Transportation money on the state-mandated project. The plan is designed to replace one adopted in 1996, and the update is intended to guide the city’s transportation processes for the next 20 years.
The Planning Commission, which held public hearings on the plan at its Nov. 14 and Nov. 28 meetings, unanimously recommended that the council reject the plan. Commissioners added six “findings” to its recommendation that summarized the concerns (see this story online for the list).
Councilors held a vigorous debate on the issue Monday at the downtown fire station amid concerns that the plan might need to go back to city staff and its consultants for more work. More work for which there is no funding, coupled with a council desire to conclude its work on the document by the end of this council term.
Councilors have scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 17, although two councilors, Ward 5’s Charlyn Ellis and Ward 3’s Hyatt Lytle, noted that the council could hold the hearing on the 17th and set aside a second date, perhaps Dec. 18 or Dec. 20 to deliberate.
“I’m going to have to be convinced at the next meeting at a delaying action,” said retiring Ward 9 Councilor Hal Brauner. “We spent four years on this and (because of retirements) by January only two councilors will still be here who were here when we started this. Sometimes trying to make something perfect means you don’t act.”
Roen Hogg of Ward 2, who is also leaving the council at the end of the year, warned that the council was “risking alienating the Planning Commission if we ignore their advice. It makes sense to have another session with the Planning Commission to get to the level of detail that they need.
“It’s important that the City Council listen to what the Planning Commission is saying. This is a plan for the next 20 years. It makes sense to take more time to get it right.”
Councilors also said that it was frustrating trying to consider the commission’s concerns without seeing the minutes from their meeting or the list of six findings. City Manager Mark Shepard noted that minutes are not usually ready for review just five days after the meeting. However, the city’s Planning Division on Friday forwarded the six findings to the Gazette-Times in a notice of disposition that has been published on the newspaper’s website (and is also attached to the online version of this story).
Public Works Director Mary Steckel and Community Development Director Paul Bilotta, who both were present at the Planning Commission meetings, briefed councilors on the commissioners' concerns and noted that they felt they could be addressed at the Dec. 17 hearing.