City News

UPDATE: Councilors approve plans for west Salem apartment complex

Update:

The Salem City Council met Monday, Aug. 14, and approved the planning administrator’s approval of a multi-family development in west Salem that drew concerns about tree preservation, accessibility and utilities from the neighborhood. Counselors also rejected funding a town hall in south Salem. 

South Salem town hall – REJECTED

During Monday’s meeting, councilor Linda Nishioka retracted her motion to host four open houses with city councilors and the mayor in south Salem, north Salem, central Salem and west Salem.

City staff estimated the events would cost around $5,000 each for organization and outreach, and Nishioka said that she had concerns about the budget and that she did not think the timing was right for the open houses.

Councilors then discussed councilor Vanessa Nordyke’s motion to plan and fund a south Salem town hall for wards 2,3,4 and 7, which the council ultimately rejected in a 3-5 vote. 

Nordyke, who proposed the motion, said the goal was to build community trust and reach constituents who don’t attend neighborhood association meetings.

Councilor Julie Hoy said that city staff are already stretched thin, and that she had concerns about the spending.

Councilor Virginia Stapleton said she wanted to see more events where city staff can answer residents’ questions about city functions like billing, especially for people who speak Spanish.

Councilor Jose Gonzalez said he supported the idea, but would prefer more Q&A time in the proposed agenda, which included information presentations from councilors about transportation planning, emergency preparedness, parks, homelessness and the bond.

Nishioka said she thought it was not the right time, and that in a few months the situation would be different.

Nordyke said that $5,000 for community outreach would be money well spent.

“The public is hurting right now. There is a huge trust deficit that has been created, so declining opportunities to engage with the public is declining opportunities to build relationships,” Nordyke said during the meeting.

She said she would like the opportunity to do more workshopping during council meetings.

“I appreciate all the feedback. I don’t feel we do enough of this, where we actually discuss publicly. I think way too much happens behind closed doors. I think way too much of these motions are decided before they hit the desk right here, and that’s not okay,” she said. 

The motion failed. Councilors Nordyke, Gonzalez and Deanna Gwyn voted in favor of the motion, while Councilor Hoy, Micki Varney, Stapleton, Nishioka, and Mayor Chris Hoy were opposed. Councilor Phillips was absent. 

Plans for a large west Salem apartment complex – APPROVED

After extending the window for written public comments, the council affirmed the planning administrator’s decision to allow a 436 unit multi-family development in west Salem, which the West Salem Neighborhood Association appealed saying it violated tree code.

The planned complex would be at the 2100 block of Northwest Doaks Ferry Road, near Straub Nature Park. People in the neighborhood brought forward concerns about century-old trees that would be cut, the water and sewer connections, traffic and accessibility for people using wheelchairs.

Councilor Micki Varney, whose ward includes the proposed complex, was the only councilor who voted against the approval. During the meeting, she said that based on the documents, she believes the applicant did not evaluate all potential alternatives for tree preservation.

“The applicant has failed to do their due diligence and consideration and evaluation of all potential alternatives for tree preservation, stormwater mitigation and (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. I do not believe the applicant has met the burden of proof showing that there are no reasonable alternatives other than what they have proposed,” she said during the meeting.

Varney said that even though the development is allowed the high number of units under city code, the topography of the land doesn’t support the extensive development, shown by the 63 conditions staff added to get the project to this stage.

“We do need housing. I agree. I’m not against development but it does need to be smart development incorporating the tools and knowledge we have acquired through decades of both mistakes and successes,” she said.

Mayor Hoy said that he agreed with many of her points, but ultimately voted to approve the decision saying he didn’t believe the council had the authority to reject it.

“That’s one of the things about land use and our quasi-judicial role that’s really both frustrating and bizarre about our laws is that as elected officials in this role, we’re supposed to take the facts and apply the rules and make a decision. And we’re used to making more political calculations rather than these kinds of decisions,” he said during the meeting, and that in the past similar decisions have been overturned by the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

“In my reading of this case, and looking at everything, I might agree with many of those things but I don’t think they’re grounds to deny this, that’s my trouble with this situation,” Hoy said.

The council ultimately approved the decision, with all in favor aside from Varney.

Intersection improvement at State & Southeast 25th – APPROVED

Councilors unanimously approved a property acquisition at the intersection of State Street and Southeast 25th Street ahead of planned construction to reduce crashes.

The city plans to add Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, a median island, lighting and signals at the location for an estimated project cost of $637,000 from the state’s All Roads Transportation Safety Program, city gas tax revenue and 2008 bond savings.

With construction planned for 2025, the city council will consider approving negotiations with property owners to acquire sidewalk and traffic signal easements for construction or to set up temporary pedestrian access routes during improvements.


Original story:

The Salem City Council meets Monday, Aug. 14, to consider plans for open houses with their constituents and to again consider the approval of a large west Salem apartment complex.

READ IT: Agenda

How to participate

The council meets Monday, Aug. 14, 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.

An open house with constituents

During Monday’s meeting, Councilor Linda Nishioka plans to present a motion to host open houses with city councilors and the mayor in south Salem, north Salem, central Salem and west Salem.

The proposed meetings would include up to three councilors from the area’s wards and the Mayor, and give residents a chance to speak directly with their representatives. 

City staff have estimated that the four events would cost around $5,000 each to plan and prepare. If the motion passes, city staff would begin making a plan with potential dates and topics, which could include transportation planning, emergency preparedness, parks, homelessness and the bond.

Nishioka’s proposal builds off of one proposed in an earlier meeting by Councilor Vanessa Nordyke, who plans to again present a motion for a south Salem town hall with wards 2, 3, 4 and 7 on Sept. 21. During the July 24 city council meeting, councilors opted to postpone their consideration of the topic until Monday’s meeting.

A tentative agenda includes communicating with the city, homelessness, affordable housing, transportation and a Q&A. 

Plans for a large west Salem apartment complex

After extending the window for written public comments, the council will again review the planning administrator’s approval of plans for a 436 unit multi-family development in west Salem, which the West Salem Neighborhood Association appealed saying it violated tree code.

In a July 24 meeting, after hearing testimony from residents about the impact on trees and concerns about accessibility and utilities, the council opted to postpone a vote to allow for additional written comments. The planned complex would be at the 2100 Block of Doaks Ferry Rd. N.W., near Straub Nature Park.

Monday’s agenda includes a memo with over a dozen additional public comments, and 18 pages of responses from city staff addressing points of concern brought up by residents during the meeting.

Public testimony said the proposal, which would remove dozens of trees, does not adequately protect significant trees in the area. Commenters said they wanted more specificity with conditions and more consideration of the ecological impacts of development.

In their responses, city staff said that the applicant properly followed state code on updating missing information and said the proposal met the proper burden of proof. They also said the preservation of trees will be tracked throughout development and that developers have permits.

Summary of the state legislative session

Councilors will hear a report summarizing the outcomes of city efforts during the last state legislative session, which ended June 25. The summary comes from Perseverance Strategies, a lobbying firm contracted by the city.

The city’s priorities this year included economic development, finance and revenue, staffing issues, land use, public safety, homelessness and the environment.

According to a city memo, the city’s top priorities were securing funding for the city’s shelters and newly opened navigation center, which did not happen, though the Salem area did receive $10 million in state funding as part of a nearly $200 million statewide housing package.

Infrastructure spending update

Councilors will also hear an update of spending from the $300 million infrastructure bond that voters approved in November.

According to the most recent update, the city has begun construction on a family friendly bikeway between Commercial street and Northeast Summer street, and design is underway for further connection to Northeast 12th Street and from Commercial Street to Northeast Front Street.

The first of three phases of work on the intersection of Southeast 22nd Street and Southeast McGilchrist Street has begun, according to the report. The project plans to improve stormwater collection and replace the crossing over Pringle Creek.

Design has started for several other projects, including replacing athletic courts at parks around the city, pavement repair and Geer Park sports fields. Master planning has begun for seismic retrofitting at the Civic Center.

The city also recently received a $6 million state grant for a bond-funded biking and walking path connecting Southeast Commercial street to Riverfront Park.

Intersection improvement at State & Southeast 25th

Councilors will consider a property acquisition at the intersection of State Street and Southeast 25th Street ahead of planned construction to reduce crashes.

The intersection sees a high number of crashes, and pedestrians have complained about safety and visibility, according to a memo from Public Works Director Brian Martin.

The city plans to add Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, a median island, lighting and signals at the location for an estimated project cost of $637,000 from the state’s All Roads Transportation Safety Program, city gas tax revenue and 2008 bond savings.

With construction planned for 2025, the city council will consider approving negotiations with property owners to acquire sidewalk and traffic signal easements for construction or to set up temporary pedestrian access routes during improvements.

Information on the payroll tax referendum

Councilors will also hear an update about the petition to put the employee-paid payroll tax on the ballot, which submitted nearly 13,000 signatures to the city for processing and verification. If just 3,986 of them are verified, the issue would go to voters in November.

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

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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.