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Cemetery owner, neighbors weigh their options in ongoing land use fight.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Round one went to the owner of Rest-Haven Memorial Park, in his bid to build a 172-unit low-income apartment complex on 15 acres of unused cemetery land, and round two went to neighbors who opposed high-density development of the south Eugene property.

Nobody's quite sure what shape round three may take, as those on all sides of the land use fight take a breather and reassess the situation.

"We're pondering," said Eugene attorney Bill Kloos, who is representing Rest-Haven owner Tim Wiper.

"Really, we've done everything the city's told us to do," Kloos said. "What would you do in this situation?"

Well, one option open to Rest-Haven is to exercise its right to appeal - within 21 days - the Jan. 16 decision by city hearings official Virginia Gustafson that has at least temporarily tied up the proposed development.

Rest-Haven got city staff approval in October to modify a 1998 conditional use permit by removing the 15 acres of undeveloped cemetery land - zoned for residential use - from the area governed by the permit.

Gustafson overturned the ruling, saying such a modification would fail to guarantee the maintenance of a 75-foot buffer between the cemetery land and surrounding properties.

City planner Steve Nystrom acknowledged Thursday that the city not only approved but recommended the conditional use permit modification as a means of freeing up the land for low-income housing or any other form of development.

"The city's staff at least thought this was the appropriate path to follow," Nystrom said. "The hearings official disagreed with certain elements of that."

Another option open to Wiper and Rest-Haven is to simply proceed with an already-filed application for a "controlled income and rent" development at the site.

The application had been on hold pending a decision on the conditional use permit modification, but potentially could be pushed forward despite Gustafson's recent ruling. As part of that process, Wiper could apply for a new conditional use permit for the 15 acres - superseding rather than modifying the existing one.

"That process would require a public hearing - so it would be the hearings official, ironically, that would be hearing that," Nystrom said. "But what she looked at in the modification was not a housing project. What she was looking at was a very simple question: Can a portion of the cemetery site be carved off of the conditional use permit?"

Residents of Brae Burn Drive, whose backyards are separated from the southern edge of the cemetery by the wooded buffer, have hired their own lawyer and showed up in force for the hearing before Gustafson last month.

More than 50 people showed up for the proceeding, several of them arguing that the buffer of trees was essential to maintaining the quality of their neighborhood and vowing to fight any proposal that may jeopardize it.

"It's a tough one to sort of capsulate," Nystrom said. "But the ball is really going to be in the court of Rest-Haven at this point.

"We're waiting to hear from the applicant, and where they intend to go next."
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Title Annotation:Government; Possibilities include applying for a new conditional use permit that would supplant the existing one
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 23, 2004
Words:510
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