The public hearing about the development planned within the Fairview Sustainable Area in Salem has been rescheduled. It will now be held July 23.
The new date came at the request of the developer, AKS Engineering & Forestry, who asked the city council to delay its judgment of the plan for 440 units on 43 acres until it could work through differences with neighbors opposed to the plan.
In his letter asking to postpone, AKS representative Chris Goodell wrote “… consistent with our long standing approach to community involvement, we have met with and will continue to meet with Sustainable Fairview Associates and Morningside Neighborhood Association to identify new opportunities for collaboration, work through differences, and find common ground.”
But Morningside Neighborhood Association representative Geoffrey James says his group has been frustrated that the developers have consistently seemed unable to grasp the meaning of “sustainable” development, though guidelines were defined in a Fairview Master Plan in 2008 and are described in Salem Code 143C on the City’s website.
“They’d keep tossing in a couple of ‘green’ items,” he says. “They’d announce they were going to have LED-certified streetlights. That’s easy; what we want are LEED green buildings.”
James also mentions that the developers held “outreach” meetings at 9 a.m. on weekday mornings, making it impossible for most of the working people in his association to attend. “We needed it at a friendly, convenient time like 6 p.m., so people could go home from work, have dinner with their families, and then go attend the meeting.”
On April 3, 2012, Salem’s planning commission voted 4-1 to approve the developer’s request to build. After this approval, the next step was the City Council. It was here that AKS asked to postpone.
Richard Reid of City Watch weighs in. “It seems as though the application was rushed through the process and deliberately avoided community stakeholders including the Morningside Neighborhood Association and Sustainable Fairview Associates. Some developers on the Planning Commission raised serious doubts about the ‘refinement’ plan.
[But they were] unwilling to demand changes that respect sustainability in Salem code 143C, and simply tossed this mess into Council’s lap. The fiasco is reminiscent of the failed county courthouse construction.”
Reid believes that the planning commission’s approval might not have been enough to convince city councilors to approve the project, now that objections had been widely aired. He suggests this may be the reason AKS wanted more time, to adjust its proposal before the city council had to make judgment on it.
In his petition to reschedule, Goodell wrote that AKS was committed to community outreach and that “This undertaking will require additional time that the existing schedule does not provide.”
The issue has been complicated by information that the developer may also have violated rules covering proper erosion control on the property. A recent warning letter sent from Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to the City of Salem gives details. In it the DEQ states that the City of Salem, which maintains erosion control and sediment prevention oversight on the property, did not require effective management practices of the developer.
It notes problems of “continued discharges” that contain sediment and other construction-related pollutants that negatively impact water quality and aquatic life.” These issues were previously identified on three other DEQ site inspections going back to April of 2011.