The proposed subdivision is on a 29-acre property at 4540 Pringle Rd. S.E. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

A proposed subdivision on a historic farm in south Salem has drawn stiff opposition from community members concerned about the degradation of open space in a largely built-out neighborhood.

The Salem City Council on Monday night will vote on the proposal.

The Portland-based developer, Kehoe Northwest Properties, submitted an application seeking to divide the 29-acre property on 4540 Pringle Rd. S.E. into 139 single family lots.

The city planning administrator approved the tentative plan on Nov. 3.

Concerns about the project centered around the removal of Oregon white oaks, increased traffic in the area, loss of wildlife habitat and preservation of the historic site.

Henry Meyer purchased the property in 1947, which included a barn built in 1854 and a farmhouse built in 1915. The property was first claimed under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, where thousands of white settlers came to Oregon and claimed 2.5 million acres of land while Indigenous tribes like the Kalapuya were forced from their land.

Meyer’s descendants have been fighting over the future of the farm for years, split on whether they should maintain the land or sell it.

More than 80 Salem residents signed a petition requesting the council deny the proposed subdivision.

“The undersigned request the mayor and the Salem City Council to DENY the proposed Subdivision of historic The Meyer Farm, to reject this land use proposal, to implement State Land Use Goal 5, and to take steps to protect this Open Space and all ‘significant’ and protected trees that the developer proposes to remove, e.g. the 300 year old oak trees, that we understand were planted by the Kalapuyas, and are part of our heritage,” the petition reads.

On Facebook there’s a group called Friends of The Meyer Farm, “a group of folks who are determined to save this historically significant and beautiful SE Salem urban farm.”

Dozens more opposed the project in letters submitted for public comment.

“It takes vision to foresee the needs of our community. With planning, we can accommodate growth. But we must also have the foresight to plan to preserve what can’t be developed, such as rare and much needed green spaces. Meyer’s Farm is one of these last rare pieces of property is Salem that can benefit the neighborhood, the community and the Salem ecosystem. It is my strong hope that you will not go forward with the development of this precious parcel of land so that future generations can enjoy it,” wrote Alison Kaiser, a south Salem resident.

Friends of Marion County, a nonprofit which seeks to protect farmland in Marion County, also wrote a letter to the city’s Planning Division opposing the development.

The sale of the property is also the subject of a court battle between Peter Meyer, who lives in New York, and his sister Molly Meyer, who lives on the farm property, and nephew Ian Meyer. Peter and Molly are the children of Henry Meyer.

In a petition filed in Marion County Circuit Court in 2019, Peter Meyer alleged that his two relatives breached their fiduciary responsibility in a trust established the elder Meyer by trying to sell the property.

Molly and Ian Meyer denied those allegations in court documents.

The court removed the trustees without finding fault or liability. The court named Michelle Morrow, an attorney not related to the family, the new successor trustee in Dec. 2020.

In a report from city staff to council members, staff addressed some of the main concerns raised in public comments.

The main one was surrounding the protection of large Oregon white oaks on the property.

The developer submitted a tree conservation plan to the city that identified a total of 808 trees on the property, 28 of which are considered significant because they’re white oaks with a diameter of 24 inches or greater.

Of the 453 trees proposed for removal, four are significant oaks, the staff report said.

Those trees were picked for removal because of their location within future lots or adjacent to needed street or sidewalk improvements, the report noted.

Another consistent concern is the increased traffic that would result from the development.

Staffers noted that they’ll be rebuilding the intersection of Southeast Hilfiker Lane and Southeast Commercial Street in 2023-2024, adding a new traffic signal with eastbound and westbound left turn lanes on Hilfiker Lane.

In regards to the concern over the loss of open space, city staff noted the land is zoned single family residential.

“The subject property has not been identified as a natural open space area …While the subject property is mostly undeveloped with one home on approximately 29.68 acres, the subject property is surrounded by an already developed residential area within the corporate limits of the city of Salem and as the city continues to grow, development is expected to occur in areas designated for residential development,” the report said.

The Salem City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. on Jan. 10. View the meeting on YouTube or watch on CC:Media Channel 21. 

The proposed subdivision is on a 29-acre property at 4540 Pringle Rd. S.E. (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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