A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

N. Albany zoning flap: What next?

Written August 27th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

The north end of Pleasant View Way may not remain a dead end. Jim Winkler’s property is on the other side of the barrier.

Jim Winkler says he was disappointed but not surprised when the Albany City Council last week turned down his request to rezone nearly 13 acres of vacant land in North Albany so he could develop an apartment complex that would include commercial services for residents to use.

The Portland developer says he is still interested in what he called a compromise proposal to rezone only part of his land. In his view this would lead to a housing development that would be “less inspired, less interesting” than what he had in mind originally.

Jim Winkler, the developer seeking to rezone five parcels he owns in North Albany, at City Hall during an earlier hearing.

Or he could follow a different solution, which is to develop the property closer to the density allowed by the current zoning to recover part of the revenue that would otherwise be available from a mixed-use project.

But, he adds, he doesn’t know which way he’ll go: “I haven’t made up my mind.”

I contacted Winkler’s Portland office Thursday after the council voted 4-2 to reject his zoning request. He returned my call and left his comments in a message on my phone.

He had asked to rezone the five tax lots he owns from medium density residential, which allows apartments, to mixed-use commercial, which allows apartments plus a range of commercial uses. He showed the council conceptual plans showing three buildings totaling 202 units of senior housing and four buildings totaling 156 units of family housing.

He also told the council the proposed number of units was only two-thirds of the maximum density allowed by the present zoning, and that plus the arrangement of the buildings on the site was intended to preserve open space and lessen the impact on the subdivision to the east.

Before the planning commission and then the council, neighbors voiced strong opposition to the request. They complained about traffic and other effects, including what the change would do to their property values.

Councilman Ray Kopczynski, who along with Councilwoman Bessie Johnson voted against rejecting the request, warned that without the mixed-use aspect, the property can already be developed for apartments, which might have even more of the effects neighbors are worried about.

The compromise Winkler talked about would rezone just the two of his parcels closest to Hickory Street. “If they want to pursue that or some other development option, such as a planned development, we will need to sit down with them and view those on their merits,” David Martineau in the city planning division told me. “We’ve extended the offer to talk about next steps when they’re ready to propose something else.” (hh)





13 responses to “N. Albany zoning flap: What next?”

  1. Ron Green says:

    I hope more and more people will understand that Mixed Use is the zoning that will get people out of their cars to do errands and other trips by walking and cycling. Car-centric, single-use neighborhoods are what have created most of the fragile communities in this country since WW II.

  2. John Jay says:

    Listening to the city council meetings, the city attorney lavished his praise on the skills of planning staff. Having high density housing engulfing my neighborhood does meet my requirement for a wonderful job by highly professional planners. Thank you city council for doing a good job vetting what staff failed to do.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Does NOT, you mean?

      • John Jay says:

        Yes HH “does not”, writing on a phone is less than ideal.

        No one wants to complain, it’s just many of us fled areas that had uncontrolled growth and it feels like, we’re going down the same path. I’m sure staff is trying and most probably were not even around when these zones were put in place. It’s just not fun to feel like you’re powerless to stop actions that you know will impact your quality of life.

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “It’s just not fun to feel like you’re powerless to stop actions that you know will impact your quality of life.”

    While I stand by my vote and concerns of potential ramifications of the result, it sure seems to me that our system works considering the outcome… You’re not “powerless” by any means. Time will tell as to how it all plays out…

  4. CherylP says:

    Why do we need more commercial space when there are already empty storefronts waiting to be filled?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Why? Because of the network effect. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect

      Because there are few stores in North Albany, few people shop there. And vice-versa. South Corvallis has long suffered from this problem, with no supermarket and most of its retail-zoned space on the repulsive and sparsely-occupied South Third Street.

      North Albany doesn’t have to be like that. When the grocery opens, more customers will encourage more stores, which will encourage more customers, etc., all in a fairly attractive and walkable setting. The rezoning discussed here could add to that.

  5. Claudia Painter says:

    Mr. Winkler et al. may not be aware of a past mess, and maybe more, created by previous owners with grand ideas for developing our North Albany field. We must oppose the proposed zoning change so future owners cannot commercialize the property. The current owner is threatening more population density to make traffic a bigger problem. I know apartment dwellers with three or four vehicles, so planners can take care of the neighborhood by requiring plenty of parking for new residents. Transportation is a huge issue. Please help us with excellent planning.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    Does anyone remember when N. Albany was taken into the City? The City Manager at that time said, ” we intend to keep the rural atmosphere of N. Albany.”

    You can’t have both either you have rural atmosphere and no development or you have development and an urban atmosphere.

    You also have wetlands being filled and developed, with permission from Oregon Division of Lands, that, according to some documents from the City, “CANNOT BE DEVELOPED”
    So much for following rules.

  7. HowlingCicada says:

    Whatever the zoning, there’s a way to make the place interesting and uniquely livable – separate the apartments from the parking area. The residential neighbors will not have to see, hear, or smell any cars from the apartments or businesses. Nor will most of the tenants.

    Surround the apartment buildings with walking paths, bike paths, and other suitable flat ground which can double as emergency access and fire lanes. Of course, there would also be trees and landscaping, play areas, etc.

    Put the parking area adjacent to the entrance and/or shopping-center, keeping it well away from residential neighbors. There could be small, individual garages for rent where residents could charge electric cars or have a workshop. All parking should be charged a separate rent based on relative land and building cost compared with the apartments themselves. By making parking expensive enough, you can attract tenants without cars and help eliminate the problem of “apartment dwellers with three or four vehicles” as noted above. Each apartment would have available a big, sturdy Home Depot-style cart for easily moving just about anything between car and home. For security concerns, you could gate the area and install enough cameras to cover all of it.

    If businesses are included, they could serve as the transition between the car zone and the car-free zone, allowing motor access for delivery and a pleasant, pedestrian connection to the apartments.

  8. ean says:

    The owner should propose the development as a Conditional Use or PUD. One of the main concerns with the zoning change is that Winkler could change the zoning then sell to Walmart. If he is truly intending to build what he proposes and not just looking to change the zoning and flip it then he should be able to use the Conditional Use or PUD options.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Good point and thank you for introducing me to PUD ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Unit_Development – or have I guessed the wrong meaning? ).

      If my previous comments sound like I’m “on Winkler’s side,” I’m not really. I just want to encourage more creative use of land, especially in a place like this which is just 20 minutes walking time to the heart of downtown. The place for isolated single-family-only suburbia is further out.

      By all means, do what it takes to get this built according to a plan and not just “flipped.”

  9. Steven Reynolds says:

    “One of the main concerns with the zoning change is that Winkler could change the zoning then sell to Walmart.”

    This was a possibility immediately identified by the Mayor. She has seen this type of scenario play itself out before, again I’m wondering why the city council is having to become experts on the minutiae detail regarding land use and why the mayor is having to ask the tough questions?


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