A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Planning commission OKs ‘The Banks’

Written February 1st, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Pretty soon, this part of Linn Avenue will look completely different: Apartment houses instead of trees.

The Salem owners of a section of Albany riverfront now have city approval of their plan for 120 apartments on the 6.2-acre site.

Over the objections of much of the neighborhood, the Albany Planning Commission Monday approved the developers’ site plan and related permits for “The Banks,” a project of market-rate apartments arranged in eight three-story buildings.

The hearing lasted almost three hours. It was mostly a case of neighbors’ objections being overwhelmed by the weight of Oregon land-use law and the zoning as cited by the city staff and the engineers and the lawyer for the the developers, Salem-based Willamette River View Holdings.

Because of the terrible audio quality of the virtual meeting online, and because most of the members had not turned their computer cameras on, I didn’t get the vote breakdown. I counted seven members voting, and I think I heard one no and one abstention. So the approval was overwhelming.

Commission member Dala Rouse, who lives near the project and testified against it, recused herself.

I did hear two of the four new commission members, Sonja Neperud and Theodore Bunch, voting for the plan. Mayor Alex Johnson II appointed them last week to replace two members who had voted against it the last time it was up before the commission.

Also new on the commission is Bill Ryals. It was his motion to approve the plan that the commission supported.

The gist of the applicants’ arguments was that the plan met all the criteria in the Albany development code, which the city planning staff also said it did, and that the city must use only clear and objective standards by which to judge it. Things like compatibility with the neighborhood didn’t count.

The site, most of it a former industrial site on the river, had been rezoned for apartments in 2003.

This was the third planning commission hearing on The Banks since 2019. The panel approved it once with 105 units but then last year rejected a change in layout and size to 120 units, which it now has approved.

Chances are that this will be the last time it comes up. The decision can be appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, but that’s unlikely because of the expense and slim prospect for success. (hh)

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13 responses to “Planning commission OKs ‘The Banks’”

  1. Albany YIMBY says:

    Nice location for a fantastic residential infill and more neighbors for that area of town. If Albany wants sustainable and affordable growth, this is the way and not suburban sprawl in North Albany.

    I only wish mixed zoning can be also a reality in our town so we can start replacing those ugly low commercial buildings, enormous parking lots and setbacks with commercial + residential so people can actually walk to places.

    And congratulations NIMBYs: You block 105 apartments last year just to get 120 approved this one.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The neighbors had opposed the 105-unit plan but the commission approved it. Then the developers wanted to amend that approval to change the layout and increase the size to 120 units. The commission voted that the change required not a modification but a new plan. This is what now has been approved. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that. (hh)

    • James Engel says:

      YIMBY (too afraid to give your real name!?), I rather doubt those apartments will be in the range for someone making minimum wage. The congestion coming up & down Geary will be something to watch. Then there will a hue & cry for a signal at Salem & Geary which will start soon after the place is finished.

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        Sorry, I appreciate my privacy.

        That’s fine. We need to end the perception that apartments are just for poor people. There are many Millennial professionals that are embracing condos because they don’t want nor need huge McMansions and taking care of lawns. Way more people would live in condos if they were enough of them in nice locations, as for example happens in Portland, where they go for exorbitant prices because of high demand.

        Secondly, you come from the false assumption that more people/density equals more congestion. In fact, it is the suburban layout with collector roads and huge distances where you always need a car what creates traffic. Let’s build a human-scale city for the people and not for cars.

        Finally, even if they create congestion and inconvenience to the neighbors, I think it is a fair trade off for increasing business in that area of town, and tax revenue for the city without providing new streets and utilities (as oppose to North Albany). If we had more of these developments the city could get more things done.

        • LissaD says:

          Spoken by a true planner. Not just young ones but seniors are wanting smaller lots/maintenance. The demographic is changing, the market sees it but most city officials don’t. The ADU legislation was timely, but fought by local government’s. Even here in Albany, the Council fought adoption for months even though it was a state mandate.

          • Albany YIMBY says:


            Seniors sell their homes to families, get some spare money for retirement and get to live comfortably and surrounded by other friends.

  2. Shawn says:

    More expensive apartments. Just what Albany needs.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Believe it or not, there are well-off people who prefer to live in apartments. If they can live where and how they want, they won’t bid for other houses in town, therefore lowering prices for everyone, including working class folks aiming for starter homes.

      • James Engel says:

        You keep day dreaming girl. Maybe smoke a little on the side & wear rose colored glasses to enhance the effect. Aww, dreamers, well “bless yer soul” as the Southerners would say…(it’s not a complement). Sorry, I’m just a practical down to earth ‘ole geezer.

        • HowlingCicada says:

          James, whether you are “practical down to earth” or conservative, how does either philosophy prompt you to think that:

          1 – Having a variety of choices in a free market is a bad idea?

          2 – Supply and demand economics somehow doesn’t apply to real estate?

  3. Paula says:

    I’ve live here all 51 years of my life. This is so sad. North Albany and all along our River should have protection for wildlife. Used to have so much of it but the population is driving it out . Sad sad sad

  4. JoAnn Lundberg says:

    My sister, my husband, & I live on the corner of Geary & Front Ave. I’m not thrilled at the prospect óf such a drastic upsoar in traffic. Most people barely stop for the stop signs. We will do our best to be good neighbors to the renters of the new apts. We hope they will do the same.


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