Land use hearings official Virginia Gustafson Lucker did not rule March 7 on the tentative Capital Hill Planned Unit Development (PUD). The hearing process was extended until April 6, and a final decision will be announced by April 20.
More than 100 people attended the hearing at Harris Hall, which lasted more than three hours. City officials were not available for comment following the hearing, as the process is not complete.
The PUD has been an object of contention for residents in Eugene’s Fairmont and Laurel Hill Valley neighborhoods for more than a year. Opponents of the plan argued that expanding the neighborhood will endanger current residents as well as Hendricks Park to the north.
Representatives for Tom Dreyer, the applicant for the development, briefly outlined the benefits of the PUD, including an added road that would allow cars and emergency vehicles to turn around, and the widening of Capital Drive at the top.
Carol Schirmer, the lead landscape architect for the project, reminded the hearing official the proposed plan will not develop the area at maximum density and the developed density would be “consistent with the current density.”
For many of PUD opponents, concerns about density have taken a backseat to concerns about safety and tree conservation. They laughed at Schirmer’s comment that all of the trees would be preserved until a building permit was submitted.
Both Schirmer and attorney Bill Kloos, who argued the South Hills Study should not be applied to the proposed area, claimed the issue is about a lack of housing.
Schirmer argued that challenges to developments in Eugene are not particular to this area, but they are “pervasive” throughout the city. Two members of the public spoke in favor of the plan, agreeing with Schirmer that Eugene is facing a housing crisis.
Public opposition to the project consumed most of the public comment period. A lengthy presentation by the neighborhood’s Joint Response Committee was followed by a parade of neighbors concerned about traffic, safety and environmental impacts of thinning the trees south of the park.
Time was set aside for the city planners and engineers involved with the project to respond; however, they said they wanted to address the wide range of concerns in detail. Instead, city staff conceded their time to respond to public comments. Their responses will be available online when they are submitted.
Cynthia Dreyer, the co-applicant, argued on behalf of the opportunity the development has to create a vibrant neighborhood. She also appealed to historic city approvals to develop the land in question.
Normally the record for hearings is left open for seven days. Due to the large number of testimonies and the high level of interest, that period has been extended. New testimony and evidence can be submitted until March 21.
Both opponents and proponents of the PUD have until March 30 to respond to anything submitted but cannot produce any new material. The Dreyers — who, as the applicants, shoulder the burden of proof — have until April 6 to offer final rebuttals. ■