A land use appeal will put Capstone’s money where its mouth is. Neighborhood advocate Paul Conte filed an appeal May 23 that could test the time and architectural constraints that Capstone, an Alabama-based student housing developer, has claimed its downtown 1,200-student housing project depends on.
The appeal contests the “vacation” of 12th Alley, which would mean that the city would no longer claim ownership of what is currently part of a bike route. Capstone has said it plans to dedicate the former alley space to bike and pedestrian through-traffic.
While Capstone has said that it will need to break ground in June to make the project financially viable — and the alley vacation permit also states that the alley vacation is essential to the student housing project — the appeal could extend beyond that date.
Conte says his appeal is based on the proper procedure of land-use decisions under Oregon law. On May 1, Capstone changed the alley vacation request to no longer include a portion of the alley. “That was a pretty significant change and it had some implications in terms of both the benefits and the detriments,” Conte says.
Because May 1 was the day after the last public input could be given on the project, he says, the record should have been opened again to allow the public to comment. “In my view, this was just another egregious action by staff to ramrod the Capstone project through and prevent the community from a fair opportunity to weigh in on the decisions,” Conte says.
In addition to procedural issues, Conte says the proposed alley vacation is poorly written because it lists all the positive impacts of alley vacation as results of the Capstone project, but it isn’t conditional on any aspects of the project, and it doesn’t properly account for the pros and cons of the alley vacation.
“If the sole benefits are coming from the development, we have to weigh not only the benefits of vacating the alley, which there are few, and the negative impacts of vacating the alley, of which there are some, and we also have to weigh the benefits of the proposed development if it’s built, and the potential negative impacts of that,” Conte says.