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A developer who owns a 12.7 acre property in North Albany wants to change its zoning from residential medium density to mixed-use commercial, but several residents testified against the proposal on Monday night during an Albany Planning Commission public hearing.

The zone switch would allow for a mix of high-density residential dwellings and commercial uses.

About 15 people spoke in opposition, saying the change would result in more traffic and drainage issues, that affordable housing would result in more crime and drive property values down and that schools can’t handle an increase in students. Others provided written comments.

“It’s all about greed,” said John Layman, who lives on nearby Troon Street and said that his neighborhood already has traffic problems.

The land, owned by Jim Winkler, president of Winkler Development Corporation, is located north of Hickory Street. The North Albany Village shopping center sits to the west, and at the eastern edge of the property are backyards of houses along Troon Street.

Winkler said that he wants to create a bike and pedestrian friendly infill project that will use three- to four-story buildings to preserve much of the landscape. The mixed-use designation would provide for greater flexibility, he added.

"We're focused on various housing forms," Winkler said. 

There could be some senior residences with stores and shops catering to retired people on the ground floor, Winkler said. That also would reduce the amount of traffic from the property.

“The policy decision before you today is really about transportation,” he said.

With the current zoning, more than 300 housing units could be built on the land, or apartments could be constructed. That would mean nearly 200 additional new vehicle trips per day at peak afternoon and evening traffic hours.

Winkler said that there could be slightly more housing units in the mixed-use development. He also has proposed a “trip cap” that would limit vehicle trips to what could result from the current residential zone.

Ron Irish, city transportation analyst, said that traffic studies are required for future construction, and under such a covenant, development could be limited — buildings that would push the property above the 200 additional trips wouldn’t be allowed.

The covenant would stay in place if ownership of the land changes.

The Albany Planning Commission left the record open for written comments about the proposal for the next seven days, with an additional seven days for responses.

The commission is expected to decide the matter during its April 3 meeting. The City Council will ultimately determine the zone change, however.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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