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Byline: The Register-Guard

City Council OKs zoning change for Lowe's store

The City Council ruled last week that a vacant, 100-acre parcel on the north side of Marcola Road is a suitable location for a major mixed-use development that would be anchored by a 170,000-square-foot Lowe's home improvement center.

Councilors voted 4-2 to allow commercial and residential construction on a portion of the property that had been zoned for light industrial use.

The change was sought by a development group planning to build hundreds of homes, apartments, shops and office buildings on the land.

The new neighborhood's main attraction would be a Lowe's store.

Councilors Dave Ralston and Christine Lundberg voted against the zoning changes endorsed by the council majority.

Residents living in neighborhoods immediately south and west of the property voiced objections to the development - known as the Villages at Marcola Meadows - during a Springfield City Council meeting in May.

Neighbors will have another chance to weigh in on the project when the Springfield Planning Commission considers a detailed master plan for the development. That plan should directly address how widespread construction on the now vacant land will impact surrounding areas.

The master plan should be submitted to city officials within the next month, said Eugene planning consultant Rick Satre, who has represented land owner JHB Inc. International at public meetings in Springfield.

Woman sues, contending city fired her in retaliation

A former city worker has filed a lawsuit claiming she was unfairly fired last year by Springfield officials, who she alleges have blocked her from finding a new job by besmirching her name when contacted by at least one prospective employer.

Kim Kagelaris alleges in the complaint filed in Lane County Circuit Court that she was wrongly dismissed from the Springfield Public Works Department's Environmental Services Division last June after she uncovered and reported to supervisors numerous deficiencies in the city's industrial wastewater monitoring program.

The lawsuit, which names the city and three Public Works managers as defendants, asks a jury to award Kagelaris up to about $4 million for economic and emotional damages related to her firing, which the suit states was in retaliation for her "whistleblowing activity."

Kagelaris alleges that after she was hired by the city in 2005, she found that Public Works officials were lax in ensuring industrial plants in Springfield properly disposed of wastewater. Furthermore, the suit contends that Kagelaris' supervisors were reluctant to address the problems she identified. The alleged system failures were violations of the federal Clean Water Act, as well as of state and local regulations, the complaint states.

Springfield officials deny the claims, saying that no significant problems with the city's industrial waste oversight system were discovered during an audit conducted by the state Department of Environmental Quality in early 2005. Questions noted by Kagelaris were later reviewed by a DEQ official, who determined they were "nonissues or minor issues" that did not constitute any law violation, city Environmental Services Manager Susan Smith said.

Springfield officials declined to discuss why Kagelaris was fired. City Attorney Joe Leahy said officials did not, as the suit alleges, characterize her as a problematic employee when contacted by the city of Eugene regarding a job Kagelaris had applied for.

Park district to build new path along river in 2009

Plans are in the works to unveil a secluded stretch of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River to bicyclists and pedestrians, Willamalane Park and Recreation District officials say.

A 2.4-mile multiuse path running from Clearwater Park west to Quarry Creek will be built in 2009. The $3 million project will give people a chance to meander along the riverfront and skip rocks in the direction of Mount Pisgah, on the other side of the Willamette's Middle Fork.

Willamalane hopes to secure another $2 million to $3 million to continue building the trail westward through Dorris Ranch to South Second Street, French said. Broader plans are being considered for the future.

"Ultimately, the idea would be to connect it to the (trail) system in Eugene," French said, adding that district officials also are pondering possible connections east of Clearwater Park, into the growing Jasper-Natron area southeast of Springfield. Yet another idea involves building a bridge across the river to the county's 2,200-acre Howard Buford Recreation Area.

The project is funded with federal transportation money.

Immigrant seeks

dream of citizenship

PORTLAND - Gustavo Jimenez waited in a nondescript room deep inside the imposing stone and marble Federal Building for his dream to come true. A quiet man with gray-green eyes and a rare yet genuine smile, he hadn't slept the night before. First because of the last-minute studying, and then because of the anxiety. Would he pass the test? Would the interview go well?

Like hundreds of thousands of others who each year petition the government to become citizens, Jimenez, a 50-year-old immigrant from Colombia, had jumped through all but the last two hoops. He came across the border illegally decades ago, but became a legal permanent resident during the Reagan-era amnesty of the 1980s. A short history-civics test and an interview were the final steps for him on Thursday.

A restaurant worker in Springfield who speaks little English, Jimenez has followed the nation's wrangling over what to do with its estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Should the United States arrest them all and send them packing? Throw up a big fence at the border? Crack down on employers? Give illegals amnesty? Offer a limited number of temporary work visas? Screen immigrants for technical skills?

Agencies settle lawsuit over sewage disposal

Local public agencies have agreed to take a closer look at their sewage management programs and pay a pair of lawyers $120,000 to settle a lawsuit the attorneys filed on behalf of a newly formed local environmental group.

The suit filed last year in federal court by Eugene-based Oregon RiverWatch alleged that the cities of Eugene and Springfield and the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Agency allowed raw sewage to seep into area waterways in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The settlement agreement approved this week by officials for all three agencies does not force local governments to make any sweeping changes to their sewage piping and treatment programs.

Attorneys for the local public agencies deny Oregon RiverWatch's allegations and say they agreed to settle the case because it was far less expensive than contesting the charges at a federal court trial.
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Title Annotation:General News; Springfield week in review
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 28, 2007
Next Article:Protect children from tobacco smoke.

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