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Here is a look at a parking lot at Oregon State University that snakes between 11th Street and 14th Street. Parking, both on campus and in the neighborhoods, continues to be an issue that drives conversations between city officials and the university.

Oregon State University officials introduced a new tool Thursday that will help guide campus development into the future.

Once upon a time OSU had a Campus Master Plan. The latest version was approved in 2004, but it expired. The concept was on the verge of morphing into the University District Plan, which was scheduled to be approved by the Corvallis City Council in December 2015. But that plan was shelved while a city task force worked on code changes deemed necessary because of enrollment, housing and parking changes that weren’t anticipated in the previous plan.

Fast forward to Thursday, when councilors heard a presentation about the OSU Corvallis Campus Vision at a work session at the Madison Avenue Meeting Room.

Working with Seattle-based consultants, OSU plans to complete the vision process by June 2020 after phases labeled initiation, discovery, ideation, formulation and realization.

We are in the discovery phase now, which OSU officials described as looking at guiding principles and collecting data. This phase is supposed to be completed by June, although Thursday was the first time the plan was discussed in public with city officials.

“That doesn’t appear to be a lot of time,” Mayor Biff Traber said. “How are you going to get more community and neighborhood association input?”

The earlier master plan process included meetings in the community. No such public meetings are planned for the vision process. Nor are there any community members on any of the committees helping to craft it.

“This is internal only, it’s an OSU document,” said Lori Fulton, OSU’s project manager who noted the possibility of doing “pop-up” surveys at the Farmers Market and neighborhood association meetings or perhaps inviting people to campus.

“We’re here to get suggestions from you,” said Bob Richardson, OSU’s land-use planner, who added “we can’t commit to anything here, but these are the types of conversations we’d like to have.”

“The community hasn’t been involved thus far, and they are anxious about it,” said Ward 4 Councilor Barbara Bull. “I hope we can have a dialogue.”

There weren’t a lot of pointed questions about the OSU announcement. A series of councilors noted that residents of their wards had “opinions” about OSU. Whether those concerns, which undoubtedly go back decades, will receive consideration from the project team remains unclear.

Questions involving OSU development will continue to be resolved using the city’s land development code, which has a special chapter, 3.36, for the “OSU Zone.” That code is legally binding, unlike the previous campus master plan and the vision document.

It’s in the land development code where the rubber meets the road.

“The development code should guide development on campus,” said Richardson, a former city planner. “We know what the rules are. We follow them. End of story. We want to move away from the campus master plan as a regulatory document. Things might come out of the vision process about how we think about the campus. And that might require amending the code.”

“LDC 3.36 will wind up changing as a result of this process,” said Jason Yaich, Corvallis’ planning manager. "The city anticipated that, and it’s in our strategic operational plan.”

Earlier, OSU planner Sara Robertson and Meredith Williams, director of transportation services, presented the university's annual monitoring report, which was required by the expired campus master plan. The report (the full text of which can be seen with the online version of this story) included components on campus development, traffic operations, parking utilization and transportation demand management.

Parking issues drove the majority of questions of councilors and one resident, former OSU professor Court Smith, urged the university to charge for parking by the hour rather via annual permits. 

Williams said the university is examining ways to reduce driving to campus and to reduce the number of students, faculty and staff who drive alone.

“Changes in parking systems can be effective as a (transportation demand management) measure for behavior change," said Williams, who added that "we want to “look at parking holistically. We don’t want to make it work well in one area simply by moving the problem somewhere else. That's a little teaser."

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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