Planning Commission to hold hearing on housing development project


Letters protest increase of 126 homes without adequate traffic, groundwater studies

July 11, 2020 — The Florence Planning Commission public meeting and hearing scheduled to take place Tuesday, July 14, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Florence City Hall, has drawn an unusual amount of attention as commissioners consider a resolution which would approve preliminary development of a major housing complex on a 9.3-acre plot located on the corner of 35th Avenue and Rhododendron Drive. 

The meeting will be held via teleconference and in compliance with Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders mandating physical distancing and restricted public attendance at meetings.

In the past weeks, Siuslaw News has received copies of letters sent to city officials for inclusion in the hearing by owners of property in close proximity to the proposed development. Many state they have concerns regarding the proposal.

The development proposal has been submitted by 3J Consulting Services, located in Beaverton, Ore., on behalf of the property owner, APIC Florence Holdings of San Francisco, Calif.

The proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) would include 31 single-family detached homes, 49 single-family attached homes and 46 multi-family homes. The development will also include a “central green,” a pavilion, picnic areas, a children’s play area and walking trails. 

If approved, the project would develop in two phases with an estimated start date of Oct. 1 and completion date of Feb. 1, 2022, for Phase 1A, and for Phase 1B to start Feb. 1, 2022, and end that December. The total density upon completion is projected to be 13.6 units per acre. 

There are many challenging aspects of a development of this scale. The City of Florence has clear, codified standards which must be met before the many different stages of development can begin and continue.

One of the residents who submitted comments is Steve Williams, a member of the Sea Watch Homeowners Association. Williams has concerns with the additional traffic that would be added to the area, but his most pressing issue regards what he feels is a potentially damaging aspect of the project: water runoff.

“The proposed development is 9.28 acres. With 6.5 feet of rain a year, we’re talking about 2.6 million cubic feet of water that lands on that property that has to be managed correctly. Now the project is removing about 90 percent of the vegetation that absorbs much of that water. So, where does the water go?” Williams asked in his letter. “Is it to a storm drain system with adequate capacity or is the plan to return it to the ground (like Fairway Estates) where it will cause imminent blowouts of our sand slope?”

Williams added that his concerns are based on past projects approved by the city, and that, in his opinion, “The city has not done this water management correctly and has caused property damage here — I believe twice — once on Coast Guard Road, a drainage pipe capacity issue, and the other related to Sand Pines around 1998, which was a groundwater issue. It seems odd too that the Coast Guard Station has been doing a lot of stabilization projects since the Fairway Estates drainage system was put in right across the street.”

In the past five years, upgrades have been made to the city’s stormwater collection system. Rhododendron Drive has seen major asphalt, bike path and vegetation modifications over the past three years. 

Williams believes that both the increased traffic and further vegetation loss would also be a problem impacting area homeowners.

“With 126 new residences, that could mean another 200-plus cars concentrated in an area that already has known issues,” Williams wrote. “So, is the city considering this many residences without a traffic study or plan? A study should be done, and a road plan should be available for us to review to see if it is reasonable for this many new residences.”

Williams suggested the plan should not only include extending the road into the development area to allow a third turning lane but also include an easement to allow the bike lane to continue. 

“Not doing this before any consideration of proposal is a safety risk to those of us who live here. Also, we request the traffic study be conducted by independent parties, not associated with parties profiting from the project,” said Williams, who added, “This has been an issue in the past.”

Nancy Rhodes, another resident of the area, provided her observations in an email to the city for inclusion in the information packet provided for the meeting. She had traffic-related concerns. 

“I live in Mariner’s Village and have recently heard about the above referenced subdivision plan,” Rhodes wrote. “As an active adult, I’m very concerned about the increase of traffic on Rhododendron once the development is completed. I run and bicycle on that windy road and, as you know, there is very little space to do so safely until you get to Wild Winds. The situation is critically unsafe now but will worsen substantially after 100+ dwellings are added.”

Tom and Karen Wilson echoed the reservations expressed by both Williams and Rhodes and asked the commission to carefully evaluate the proposal before approval. 

“Traffic on Rhododendron is already bad and 35th Street is the only access to Highway 101 for several miles in either direction. This requires everyone living north or south of 35th Street to pass by this area to get to Highway 101,” the Wilsons wrote. “Keeping in mind that Fairway Estates will be adding 80 new homes and now 136 homes from this new project — traffic would increase considerably on Rhododendron and 35th Street.”

The Wilsons said that the area is currently plagued by traffic accidents, due mainly to the amount of traffic, speed and the lack of a turning lane onto Coast Guard Road.

“Please keep in mind that more than 50 families live and work at the Coast Guard Station and Sea Watch Estates. These families come and go on a daily basis with no turning lane into that area,” the couple wrote. 

The Wilsons also talked about the potential risk of flooding danger to homes due to the runoff they anticipate from the removal of vegetation and the movement on land associated with grading and leveling the plot. 

The agenda and information packet on the Planning Commission’s hearing on Resolution PC 20 07 PUD 01 — Preliminary PUD and Resolution PC 20 08 SUB 01 — Tentative Subdivision (SUB) Plat are now available at ci.florence.or.us.

In addition, the commission will conduct a hearing on Resolution PC 20 06 CUP 02 — 470 Highway 101 Recreational Marijuana. This is an application from Rosa Cazares for a Conditional Use Permit for a marijuana retail use in the existing building at 470 Highway 101, at Tax Map 18-12-27-44, Tax Lot 11800, in the Mainstreet District regulated by Florence City Code Title 10, Chapter 27.

Residents wishing to provide input or comments to the Planning Commission may do so by submitting written communication via email to the Community Development Department at [email protected], by mailing comments to the Planning Commission or by dropping off comments at the drop box located at Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101. 

Those wanting to provide verbal testimony can participate in the meeting via the GoToWebinar platform. To do so, complete a speaker’s card online at www.ci.florence.or.us/bc-pc/request-address-planning-commission-speakers-card at least one hour prior to the meeting, July 14 by 4:30 p.m. City staff will then contact the speaker to let them know the process to participate in the meeting. 

The public can listen and view the meeting through the GoToWebinar platform at attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5779389765482736910. 

Meetings are also shown live on Cable Channel 191 and online at www.ci.florence.or.us/citymanager/public-meetings-live and will be available after the meeting on the city’s Vimeo website.

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