City News

UPDATE: Councilors approve plans for safer walking, biking on South Salem Heights Avenue

Update:

Salem city councilors met Monday, July 24, to hear public testimony on Salem Heights Avenue and a proposed apartment complex in west Salem, but deferred making a decision on the project.

Plans for new west Salem apartment complex — vote postponed

In May, the city’s Planning Administrator approved a proposed plan for a 436 unit multi-family development in west Salem, which the west Salem Neighborhood Association said violates tree code.

The council ultimately voted to postpone the vote and allow for more time for written testimony.

Councilors heard testimony from residents of the neighborhood regarding the plans, who brought up questions about century-old trees that would be cut, the water and sewer connections, traffic and accessibility for people using wheelchairs.

One speaker was a homeowner whose 1.5 acre property would be nearly entirely surrounded by the complex, with their driveway being the only access to and from the property.

City staff said that the planning administrator’s approval relied on evidence that the complex could adequately meet requirements for water and sewer access and curb size, and does not include an engineering review which comes later. The plan will still need to go through a public works and building permits review process if council approves the plan at this stage.

The council opted to close the public hearing, but keep written public testimony open for an additional seven days. The council will move to deliberations in its Aug. 14. meeting.

Plans for safer walking, biking on South Salem Heights Avenueapproved

After years of collaboration between neighbors and city staff, the council unanimously voted to include the plans for a protected pedestrian and biking pathway on South Salem Heights Avenue into the Salem Transportation System Plan, a long-range plan for future developments. 

Councilors heard testimony from residents living near South Salem Heights Avenue, largely in support of making improvements to a street they said lacks sidewalks and safe crossings. They asked that the improvements be prioritized after being incorporated into the plan. 

For four years, the city and neighbors have developed a project plan with several options, and of those neighbors preferred a 10-foot-wide multi-use path separated by plantings.

“This has been our Ironman event for the neighborhood association. We have run a good race, and we hope you’ll be at the finish with us,” said Ted Burney, chair of the Southwest Association of Neighbors.

Some residents said that beyond the development plan, they’d like to see lower speed limits and more stop signs on the road. Calming measures would remain an option after the plan was approved, with additional opportunities for public input in the future.

South Salem town hall — vote postponed

Councilor Vanessa Nordyke made a motion to host the first town hall for south Salem, bringing residents in wards 2, 3, 4 and 7 to speak with councilors Nordyke, Deanna Gwyn, Linda Nishioka and Trevor Phillips.

Nordyke said that there was a lot of interest in a ward 7 town hall she hosted last year, and a combined town hall would support neighborhoods represented by multiple councilors.

Putting on the town hall would cost less than $5,000, Nordyke said, to organize and advertise the event.

Nordyke said that the south Salem town hall would address issues unique to the area, such as public safety and development, but encouraged other areas to replicate the format and plans.

Nishioka brought a substitute motion to delay the vote until Aug. 14, to allow more time to evaluate the costs, and adapt the motion to gather additional information on organizing additional town halls for the other wards.

Nishioka’s motion passed in a 6-2 vote. Councilors Nordyke and Gwyn were opposed, Mayor Hoy, and councilors Nishioka, Phillips, Hoy, Stapleton and Varney were in favor. Councilor Gonzalez was absent.

The South Salem town hall is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 21, from 5-7 p.m. at the Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library.

Other measures

On Monday, councilors unanimously voted to:

-Increase the budget for construction at the city’s homeless Navigation Center by $100,000 using remaining state grant funds. The funds will go to replacing the rooftop HVAC units and an emergency backup generator and extending the construction contract and project management by a year for those repairs.

-Appoint Matthew Jobson, Gretchen Coppedge and Valerie Harris to the Salem Public Library advisory board.

-Update the citywide fee schedule for the next year, to account for errors due to rounding or miscalculation. The fee changes are mostly reductions, and apply to sign inspection fees, wastewater services and permits for disc golf, softball and baseball tournaments.

Original Story:

The Salem City Council meets Monday, July 24, at 6 p.m. to consider additional funding for HVAC and a generator at the navigation center, appointments to the Salem Public Library advisory board and a public hearing about tree removal at a west Salem development.

READ IT: AGENDA

How to participate

The council meets Monday, July 24, at 6 p.m. in-person at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. room 220, with the meeting also available to watch online. The meeting will be livestreamed on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available. Anyone may attend the meeting to listen or comment.

The public comment portion of the meeting takes place after opening exercises, such as roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance, and residents are invited to comment on any topic, whether it appears on the agenda or not. If a public comment does not relate to an agenda item, it may be saved for the end of the meeting.

To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday.

For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.

Public hearing on plans for new west Salem apartment complex

Monday’s meeting includes a public hearing about plans for a proposed 436 unit multi-family development, whose plans the west Salem Neighborhood Association says violates tree code.

Following the hearing, the council will decide whether to approve, amend or reverse the Planning Administrator’s approval of the plan.

The city’s planning administrator approved plans for the subdivision, located at the 2100 Block of Doaks Ferry Rd. N.W., on May 10, according to a staff report from Community and Urban Development Director Kristin Retherford.

The plans include a six-lot subdivision called Titan Hill Estates and 436 units throughout 31 buildings, called Titan Hill Apartments.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association appealed the decision on May 25. The appeal said that the plans did not adequately follow city code requiring that certain types of trees, including native or sizable trees, be preserved.

Though the applicant originally requested removing 53 trees, the decision limited it to 42 according to Retherford, due to street orientation and road access.

South Salem town hall

Councilor Vanessa Nordyke plans to make a motion to host the first south Salem town hall for residents in wards 2, 3, 4 and 7. She is planning the town hall alongside councilors Deanna Gwyn, Linda Nishioka and Trevor Phillips.

The town hall is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 21, from 5-7 p.m. at the Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library, according to the motion. It would focus on communication with the city, homelessness, affordable housing and transportation, and has a tentative agenda.

The motion seeks support from city staff with printouts, information and outreach.

$100k in state funds for the Salem Navigation Center

Councilors will consider increasing the budget for building the Salem Navigation Center by $100,000, using existing state grant funds. The center, a low-barrier shelter providing 75 beds and connections to social services, opened in the spring.

The project is expected to be fully completed by November 2023 due to delayed delivery of equipment, according to a report from Brian Martin, public works director. The additional funds would bring the total project expenses to $5.3 million, according to the report.

The funds will pay for replacing the rooftop HVAC units and an emergency backup generator and extending the construction contract and project management by a year for those repairs.

Appointments to Salem Public Library advisory board

Three applicants have been recommended for the Salem Public Library advisory board, which advises the city council on library operations. Two of the applicants are newcomers, and one is seeking a second term, according to a staff report.

Applicant Matthew Jobson works in vascular surgery at Salem Health, according to his application. He said he and his family frequently use the library, and he believes its services are essential for the growing Salem community.

Gretchen Coppedge is seeking a second term on the board. She’s also involved in the World Beat Festival, the Salem Art Association and coordinates a reading program at Baker Head start, according to her application.

Applicant Valerie Harris is the secretary of her Homeowners Association Board and has been on the Salem Multicultural Board for six years, according to her application. She also leads resting and math groups in her daughter’s classroom at Myers Elementary School, and volunteers at the school’s library once a week.

If appointed, their terms would expire on June 30, 2027.

Safer walking, biking on South Salem Heights Avenue

Councilors will also consider a plan for improving South Salem Heights Avenue, west of Commercial Street.

The street doesn’t have access for pedestrians and bicycles, or adequate curbs and stormwater collection, according to a staff report from Brian Martin, public works director.

In 2018, neighbors approached the city with concerns about the planned Wren Heights residential complex, which is now under development.

The city has since done outreach to develop a project plan, which includes three potential options for improving the street: a multi-use path separated by plants, sidewalks on both sides of the street or a sidewalk on one side separated by plants.

The neighborhood prefers the multi-use path, according to the staff report, which would be 10 feet wide.

If approved, the project would be added to the city’s Transportation System Plan, which is a long range plan for future developments. Funding would come from the city’s share of the state gas tax revenue, according to the project page which does not list a project cost estimate or timeline.

Fee schedule update

Councilors will consider a resolution to update nine fees on its 2024 fee schedule which had errors due to rounding or miscalculation, according to a memo from Josh Eggleston, the city’s chief financial officer. The proposed fee changes are mostly reductions, and apply to sign inspection fees, wastewater services and permits for disc golf, softball and baseball tournaments.

The fee schedule was approved during the council’s June 12 meeting.

The proposed city sign inspection fee adjustment is an increase from $249 to $264.

Wastewater fees would decrease from $120.17 to $62 under the proposed update.

Disc golf tournament rentals would increase by $1, per course, to $256 for a 2-day tournament or $192 for non-profits.

Baseball tournament fees per game would decrease by about half, compared to the previously approved fee schedule. For between two and 10 teams, it would drop to $115 from $222.75, for example.

Information on payroll referendum, subdivision, commission appointments

Councilors will also hear information on several topics that will not see action on Monday, including:

-Mayor Chris Hoy’s appointment of a council liaison to the Equity Roundtable, which provides input and advises city staff on how to better serve underrepresented communities. The roundtable started this spring as a pilot project. Hoy has appointed Councilor Virginia Stapleton for the role of council liaison.

-A planning administrator decision to approve a five-lot subdivision of property Southeast Turner Road. 

-A  petition for a referendum of the employee-paid payroll tax councilors approved earlier this month, submitted by Preston Mann of Oregon Business & Industry. The petition requires 3,986 valid signatures by August 9 for inclusion on the November ballot.

More on that here:

-Hoy’s appointment of Connie Strong to the Historic Landmarks Commission, the commission reviews, designates and helps preserve historic sites in the city. Strong has previously volunteered at the YMCA of Marion and Polk Counties,  and is active in the Court-Chemeketa Residential Historic District association, according to her application.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

SUPPORT OUR WORK – We depend on subscribers for resources to report on Salem with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!

Avatar photo

Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.