Woodburn City Council approves application for 821-unit development
The Woodburn City Council approved Monday night the proposed 150-acre Smith Creek residential development, which would bring more than 800 residential units to Woodburn.
The City Council held its first public hearing Monday, Oct. 29, which gave the opportunity not just for city staff and the applicant, Stafford Land Company, to make presentations, but also for the public to testify.
More than a dozen members of the public did so, the majority of them residents of Woodburn Estates & Golf expressing concerns regarding the proposed removal of stop signs on Hayes Street as well as access to the new development via a public easement in the middle of a secluded street of Estates homes.
With the approval from City Council, Stafford Land Company could start on the first of its nine-phase project as early as spring 2019, with homes selling as early as summer 2020, according to their presentation Monday night. The developer said the project will be spread over five to eight years, hopefully being completed by 2026.
Included in the first phase will be an extension of Ben Brown Lane, currently a dead-end road extending west from Settlemier Avenue, all the way to a southern extension of Harvard Drive (a future phase will connect Harvard Drive and Stubb Road, a country road that is connected to Parr Road and will be gradually upgraded as the project continues).
Amenities of the development include a cycling and walking path between South Settlemier Avenue and Stubb Road along the west tributary of Mill Creek (as outlined in the city's Mill Creek Greenway Master Plan), as well as a combination of private common open spaces and public parkland. The greenway, which will eventually include benches, will be improved by the developer but then deeded to the city as parkland. A picnic shelter, basketball courts and park area are also proposed for the development.
The first phase will include building 161 homes, many of them located directly behind parts of Woodburn Estates & Golf homes. Over the course of the construction, there will be more than 600 houses built, nearly 100 townhouses and more than 100 multi-family units, or apartments.
The new development will link with already-existing thoroughfares, including Smith Drive and other side streets that are part of Smith Addition and, in the project's final phase, the newly constructed Killian Springs Parkway will travel from Stubb Road and meet up with Hayes Street between Nellie Muir Elementary School and St. Mary's Episcopal Church.
City staff recommended the removal of Hayes Street stop signs at a T-shaped intersection with Oregon Way, allowing for better flow of traffic, they said. As a result, golf cart crossings just east of that section would be better marked, they said. This recommendation did not sit well with members of the public at Monday's meeting.
"I walk to the clubhouse frequently. I'm at the intersection at Oregon Way and Hayes, and if I'm lucky, while they're stopped at the stop sign, I can get across the street. You take the stop signs out, they're not gonna let me walk across the street at that intersection," said resident Louise Davidson, one of at least half a dozen residents who voiced concerns about the intersection. "We're not allowed to walk on the golf course, so we won't be able to use the (pedestrian crossing). That's where the golf carts go. We cross at corners to walk down Oregon Way to get across the street. I'm opposed to taking out stop signs. You're gonna get somebody killed at that intersection, without a doubt."
After hearing the residents' concerns, the Council amended its approval to exclude the portion that would take out the stop signs on Hayes Street, a subject which may be visited further down the line, especially as the city has plans to upgrade Hayes Street in the near future.
"That's something we can look at again in the future," Council President Frank Lonergan said. "Leave the stop signs there, look at traffic after this project's been developed somewhat, see what traffic patterns are, and then go from there."
But residents also voiced concerns regarding the developer's proposal for an area behind an undeveloped lot on Santiam Drive that's owned by Woodburn Estates but is considered part of the public right of way due to city utilities located there. The developer's proposal shows a cedar fence line separating the development from Estates homes, but there would be a gap in the fence at that location, with a Smith Creek walking path ending there.
"Our homeowners do not want that open to Santiam, they do not want strangers coming into their space," vocalized Estates resident Janice Aiken. "We're not against the project, we think it's a fine project. Our homeowners are old, they treasure their quietness, their space. ... There will be bicycles coming through, kids with skateboards will be going through to go down our streets to get to Walmart or Burger King or wherever. ... You're building a fence, you could build a fence across that if you wanted to."
The Council did not move to make any changes to this part of the developer application.
But overall, support for the project seemed to be overwhelming from present councilors (Councilors Juan Serratos and Eric Morris were absent) and the audience. Beyond the stop sign and empty lot connection, there were few criticisms.
"When I looked at your diagram ... I saw a corn maze," Woodburn resident Stephen Rippeteau, who said he worked many years in traffic management, told the developer at the meeting. "I'm finding a lot of corn mazes here in the Pacific Northwest. ... It's a beautiful area, but you can't find your way in and you can't find your way out."
He did add another suggestion though.
"This is a terrific project," Repiteau continued. "I would reduce the density of the homes and turn your flow to Parr Road and this city must do everything they can to get another access to Interstate 5 off of Parr Road."
The Smith family, which has been owned the land for decades, voiced its support for the project at the meeting.
"Our parents, in 1952, bought the Settlemier farm with the intent of always developing it," Yvonne Thomas said in the meeting. "We really looked at all the developers. They wanted piecemeal; Mom and Dad wanted a master plan, not little parts. The Stafford people really had our heart when we said we want a master plan and we want to support Woodburn: We want to continue the addition with names of streets of citizens of Woodburn, we want a memorial park named after our parents, and we want to donate some land to the schools."
The developer has already been in talks with Woodburn School District regarding donating and selling land. A portion of the land on the south side, which sits across the street from Heritage Elementary and Valor Middle schools, will potentially be donated to the Woodburn School District, and a northern portion of the land that neighbors Nellie Muir Elementary School could be sold to the district.
"It's time, we think, to have this come to a conclusion," Thomas continued. "It's time to turn over the whole thing to Woodburn."
Now that the City Council has indicated its approval, the next step will be to sign legal documents to officially annex the land into the city and apply zoning to the property. The final order of approval will likely be read at the next council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13 (moved a day later due to the Veterans Day holiday). The developer would then likely plan on applying for building permits in the spring.