The Salem City Council on Monday narrowly approved a scaled-back plan by a developer to build over 100 single family lots on the historic Meyer Farm property in south Salem.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the city planning administrator’s approval of the proposal.
Plans for the property have drawn significant public interest in recent months, with dozens of Salemites previously testifying before the council in opposition because of the number of trees that would be removed and concerns about increased traffic in the neighborhood.
Supporters of the project have cited the need for more housing in Salem as both home prices and average residential rents have soared and vacancy rates remain low.
The developer proposed to reduce the number of significant trees removed during development from 17 to six and the lot total from 139 to 125.
The vote comes nearly four weeks after councilors voted in favor of denying the planning administrator’s project approval over concerns about the removal of significant trees from the farm.
Portland-based developer Kehoe Northwest Properties plans to remove six trees determined to be significant under the city’s code, which include Oregon white oaks with a diameter of at least two feet. There were 64 total significant trees identified on the property.
Kehoe submitted the new application March 9 for a subdivision on the property, located at 4540 Pringle Rd. S.E.
Mayor Chuck Bennett and councilors Virginia Stapleton, Jose Gonzalez and Chris Hoy voted in favor of approving the new application.
Councilors Vanessa Nordyke, Tom Andersen and Trevor Phillips voted to deny its approval.
Councilor Micki Varney, who was appointed to the council last week to serve the remainder of Jim Lewis’ term, abstained because she hadn’t had a chance to review testimony, City Attorney Dan Atchison said at the meeting. Councilor Jackie Leung was not in attendance
Vicinity map of 4540 Pringle Road S.E., where the Meyer Farm property is located. (City of Salem).
After councilors denied the previous application on March 2, the developer had the opportunity for a “do-over,” said Atchison.
“I understand the folks who may be frustrated by that, but that’s a provision in state law,” he said.
The new application proposes adjusting the walking path on the property to avoid significant trees, limiting their removal to development of public streets – specifically, improvements on 12th Street Southeast as well as development and grading on Hilfiker Lane, according to the applicant’s final written argument, dated Monday.
If councilors had denied the new application, Atchison said at the meeting that the developer could appeal the city’s decision through the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Phillips described the position during the meeting as “a tough vote,” but said he believed alternate designs could preserve at least three additional trees and that he remained concerned about safety issues on 12th Street. The proposed development is in Ward 3, which Phillips represents.
“We do need more housing at all levels throughout the city, especially near the core network,” he added.
Hoy previously made a motion during a March 1 meeting to modify the planning administrator’s decision, telling the applicant to preserve significant trees on 10 lots by dedicating them as open space or incorporating them into the homestead lot. He also called for relocating a pedestrian path on Hilfiker Lane to ensure it didn’t impact trees. That motion failed.
At Monday’s meeting, he said he believed the new application got “very close” to his previous motion.
“I think it’s the best outcome we can hope for given the difficult situation,” Hoy said.
Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.