How much change is too much change? And what does extreme mean, really?
Those are questions the Corvallis Planning Commission will grapple with as it examines a request from Oregon State University to adjust the development and open space allocations in three of the nine sectors on campus.
The university has applied to move 95,000 square feet of development space from Sector B in the center of campus to Sector D at the east end of campus at the intersection of Monroe Avenue and Ninth Street. OSU also wants to shift 10,000 square feet of open space from Sector D to the adjoining Sector C in the campus core.
City approval is required for such changes. And if OSU receives that approval, it will move forward with a 290-tenant upper division/graduate student housing project on the property.
Commissioners held a 150-minute public hearing on the matter Wednesday night, but a request by the university to hold the record open an additional seven days means the commission will not deliberate on the plan until June 5.
University officials — OSU was represented by six different speakers, with more officials and consultants in the audience — said that more on-campus housing is needed to comply with pledges made during the 2011-2014 collaboration project with the city. OSU officials also cited a 2016 university-commissioned study that shows a need for 1,000 additional beds of student housing on campus.
The university further argued that the location is ideal because it is close to downtown services and transit, and its tenants would not be as likely to need to bring their cars.
Six neighborhood residents and one graduate student rejected the OSU arguments, testifying against it during 45 minutes of public comment. No one spoke in favor of the project, while one OSU employee provided neutral testimony.
Opponents chastised OSU for not involving the neighborhood earlier in the process, noting that the announcement of the plan was published in the Gazette-Times before neighbors had been advised.
Opponents said that when OSU did hold public meetings about the project university officials refused to make any changes.
Opponents said that the university failed to consider alternative sites for the housing. They suggested 15th Street and Jefferson Way and the parking lot adjacent to the Tebeau Hall dormitory as possible solutions. They bemoaned the loss of open space at the gateway to the campus.
“The impact of this project on the neighborhood will be devastating,” said Suki Meyer, who noted the cumulative effect of this project on top of the apartments on the site of the old Gazette-Times building, as well as the 600-plus bedrooms — and a 500-car garage — going up nearby at the Washington Yards project.
Meyer predicted parking, traffic and trash problems will ensue if the project is built. She closed by asking, “Is this what we want for our city? Please take a moment to consider your vision for the future of Corvallis.”
Kent Daniels, a former member of the Planning Commission, said “if this allocation isn’t extreme then I don’t know what is.”
There’s the rub. City approval is required for such sector swaps. But there is no guidance on how much is too much.
Extreme, ultimately will be decided by the Planning Commission and the City Council, because whatever recommendation the commission makes must be reviewed by the council.