A 2021 aerial photo of the property the Salem City Council voted April 25 to approve for a planned subdivision at Robins Lane Southeast. (Courtesy/City of Salem)

The Salem City Council on Monday is set to make a final order approving a plan by a developer to build 178 single-family lots at Robins Lane Southeast.

Following a public hearing on April 25, the council voted 8-1 to approve the application for Multi-Tech Engineering Services, a Salem-based developer, to build the subdivision at 2527 Robins Lane S.E.

The written order is on Monday’s consent calendar, City Attorney Dan Atchison said Thursday, meaning councilors will give final approval for the plan to move ahead following a three-week appeal period.

The subdivision is part of a broader effort to help meet the demand for housing in the Salem area, said property owner Mark Lowen of BC Salem Property LLC - the applicant representing the developer – at the public hearing.

The plan has drawn concerns from people living nearby regarding safety conditions on the road, losing links between streets, congestion and additional trees being removed on the property for the subdivision.

The only opposing vote came from Councilor Jackie Leung, who represents Ward 4 in south central Salem where the property is. Prior to the vote, Leung made a motion to reverse the planning administrator’s decision to approve the plan. No other councilor seconded the motion.

“It's very frustrating,” she said at the meeting. “I recognize we do need housing. We desperately need housing. But at the same time, are we taking (into) consideration the impact that's going to be having within these neighborhoods? Specifically not only the traffic impact, but also the dangers that's associated with it.”

Leung did not elaborate on the danger she referred to and could not be reached by Salem Reporter Thursday for comment by phone or email.

If the council adopts the final order Monday, there will be a 21-day period for any appeals to be filed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, said Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, Salem’s deputy community development director for the city.

Lowen said a timeline on the subdivision’s construction hasn’t been determined.

Anderson-Ogilvie said in an email Thursday that city officials considered the public concerns throughout the review and hearing processes and “ultimately found that the proposal, as conditioned, meets all applicable regulations."

People who submitted written testimony to the council were concerned that many housing developments use Robins Lane Southeast as their primary access to Commercial Street Southeast, and it’s common for vehicles to speed, pedestrians to cross the street in unmarked areas and vehicles to park in bike lanes, according to the agenda item for the April 25 public hearing.

Other testimony expressed concern about the lack of planned infrastructure changes, particularly to roads and traffic control measures, the item said. The applicant submitted a traffic impact analysis as required, which showed all eight intersections evaluated operate within city standards for street design.

Construction of the lots, commenters said, will also cause additional congestion along Robins Lane Southeast. City traffic counts in 2021 showed 2,500 vehicles per day on the street. Robins Lane Southeast is a designated “collector street,” which means it distributes traffic mostly between neighbors, activity centers and arterials. Collector streets can carry between 1,600 and 10,000 vehicles each day, according to the Salem Transportation Plan. 

The city will build a construction entrance from the street for all construction vehicles and equipment to enter and leave the site, intended to ensure they don’t drive through the narrower residential streets of Mistymorning Avenue Southeast, Kari Dawn Avenue Southeast and Pikes Pass Avenue Southeast, the agenda item said.

Ward 4 council candidate Dynee Medlock said at the April 25 hearing she was concerned about the development in part because there is only one way in and out of Robins Lane. “You imagine the traffic that goes along with that and the bottleneck that can happen because of that, and it’s just a frightening thought,” she said.

Medlock said at the hearing that Robins Lane is not wide enough to meet the standards of a collector street.

“Do we have to wait for somebody to die before we believe that this really is not a collector street?” she said. “Really what we want is to have some improvement to the street so that we can move forward with the development, because we're not against the development. We think it's great, but it's not safe to move forward with it.”

Other comments showed concerns about the removal of additional trees from the property. Trees were cleared from the property between April and June 2018 before it was annexed into city limits, and there are no more trees on the property that need to be removed, the agenda item said. The applicant is required to plant additional trees on the property and grant $15,000 to the Salem City Tree Fund, “where donations and fines help plant new trees,” according to the city’s website.

An aerial photo of the property in 2016 before trees were cleared from the property between April and June 2018. (Courtesy/City of Salem)

The lots range in size from 5,000 to 19,283 square feet, according to the planning administrator’s decision.

“Our traffic engineers are working very closely with the city traffic engineer staff to make sure … that we comply with everything the city requires,” Lowen told Salem Reporter.

Councilor Chris Hoy said at the hearing he understood concerns from the neighborhood about the subdivision but that he thought the development met all criteria needed to be approved.

“When you live in an area for a long period of time and you get accustomed to what it's like to live there, and then the development goes in nearby and it changes things, and I know that can be disruptive, unsettling. But that's the world we live in. We live inside the urban growth boundary,” he said. “We absolutely need more housing in this city, we desperately need it.”

 Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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