A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Waive fee to appeal? Council says no

Written July 24th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

The site of “The Banks” apartment proposal on Friday afternoon: A land-use fight may develop here.

The Albany City Council has refused to waive the fee that neighbors have to pay to make their case against “The Banks,” a proposed 120-unit apartment complex on the Willamette River.

This came up at the end of Wednesday’s council session. Because it was a virtual meeting and the issue had not been on the agenda, it took me till Friday to catch up with the gist of it.

Because it’s a land-use issue, it’s convoluted.

In short, it goes like this: In July 2019, the planning commission approved a site plan and related permits for 105 apartments on the river across Geary Street from Bowman Park. This year the developers, Willamette River View Holdings II of Salem, applied to change the layout and increase the number of apartments to 120. The planning staff approved the change on July 17.

The next day, July 18, a neighbor, Mary Abraham, e-mailed the city council to complain that according to the city development code, modifications of approved plans must be handled in the same way as the original approval, and staff approval now is not the same as planning commission approval last year.

Now, in order to have their concerns addressed, the neighbors have to file a formal appeal, and for that, the city charges a $303 fee. “Therefore,” Abraham wrote, “I am asking that the city council waive the appeal filing fee to ensure the planning commission reviews this modification request.”

Abraham, who lives on Willamette Avenue less than a block from the apartment site, meant for the council to hear her request under “business from the public.” When it came up, Councilman Dick Olsen made a motion to grant the request and waive the fee. But Councilman Rich Kellum argued against it, and Olsen’s motion got no support.

The planning staff got letters from 40 people about the request to expand the apartment complex before the staff went ahead and approved it. All 40 have standing to file an appeal. As of Friday, no appeal had been filed. The deadline is 5 p.m Monday.

So by Tuesday we’ll know whether the neighbors scraped together three hundred bucks so they can tell the planning commission why eight three-story apartment buildings would be too much for their low-key neighborhood of modest houses and unimproved streets. (hh)

13 responses to “Waive fee to appeal? Council says no”

  1. Rolland says:

    Come On City, we all know you are faced with am $11 million shortfall in the near future, but for the cost of waiving the fee, its going to cost the City more in bad PR than what will be gained.

  2. Steven Reynolds says:

    Yea… this was bad decision. Why don’t you take some of her property tax money she’s already paying for city services and deduct the fee from it? $300 from people that are struggling financially just to be heard is not a good look, especially when you’re going to completely change their quality of life. I think Councilman Kellum is on the wrong side of this issue. Some on Council are worried about setting a precedent, if you don’t charge one person then the next one will want it free, but putting large fees just to be heard especially when someone is already paying for city services is a bit erroneous. It’s like requiring approval by a panel in the historic district to complete the most minute and obvious repairs, this is a major change in the plan and is kind of completely the opposite of how the historic district is run, in the extreme. It would be nice to get somewhere in the middle, perhaps each resident gets one free appeal every few years in order to avoid the abusers.

    HH kind of steered us on this one, but I still think he’s correct, it’s not right.

  3. Rich Kellum says:

    Hasso, I take issue with the tone of “Councilman Rich Kellum argued against it” I went on to point out that 1. we are in a budget crisis giving things away does not match the need. and 2. if we do this for these folks, the next people coming forward will say “you did it for them so why not us” there is just no end to it.

    • Cheryl P says:

      Seriously Rich…$303 is going to make a difference? As for the “you did it for them”…if under the exact same circumstances, the argument would be warranted…as it should. But if the City isn’t following its own rules as is being reported, then there is no fee to be paid because it’s not an ‘appeal’, it’s making sure the rules are being followed.

      • Rich Kellum says:

        it is exactly an appeal, so Cheryl, if you think that no cost should be charged for ANY appeal then you have a point, but as long as we charge some folks we should charge everybody, that has been my issue with the system for years… picking winners and losers… a guy can fix your car at his house as long as he doesn’t charge for it, but if you pay him to do the exact same job it is illegal…. stuff like that

        • Hasso Hering says:

          Just to clarify. In this case, the original site plan was approved by the staff but then sent to the planning commission when three neighbors asked that this be done, I was told at the time, and there was no formal appeal. The neighbors now wanted the same process to be followed.

          • hj.anony1 says:

            Kellum takes issue with tone. LOL.

            Good lord, he needs a challenger for that putrid seat on the council.

    • Johnny Scot Van Ras says:

      Albany is in a budget crisis because of fiscal mismanagement by the Mayor and the city councilors. Virtual council meetings do NOT provide fair and adequate representation for the citizens of Albany. Next, citizens will be assessed a “fee” for the privilege to speak at meeting. Did the ward councilor reach out to Mary Abraham and other to discuss their concerns?
      Oh, I forgot, they don’t represent the people of Albany.

      • Dick Olsen says:

        I’m Mary’s Councilman and moved to wave the fee. Of course, I got no second from this council and so there was no vote.

        • Jennifer says:

          We don’t want these apartments. I don’t want to look out my front door at a cement wall. Like I’m in a prison. Something that should of been addressed was the fact that Geary and old Salem needs a light if we add these and is the schools able to take on more kids. These streets are crap but let’s add more traffic….

  4. Ray Kopczynski says:

    It may becomes a “Pandora’s Box.” Where do you draw the line?

  5. Kate says:

    I live in the neighborhood impacted by doubling traffic on Geary (and likely Water St as well). Is someone collecting contributions to pay the fee? I feel strongly that, should this move forward, the developers need to pay a proportional sum for the improvements needed to support the increase in traffic and alleviate the burden on infrastructure (notably a stoplight and space capacity at Waverly Elementary as these 120 family units were not included in bond planning).

  6. Marilyn says:

    Curious if the city will be liable for increased accidents at the intersection of Geary and Old Salem Rd? It is well known that this intersection has had many many accidents over the years. Perhaps the city can create a $$ fund that would be available for law suits brought against the city for its decision to allow 120 apartments that will be increase the accidents at that point.


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