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Planners vote against south hills subdivision.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

By the slimmest of margins, the Eugene Planning Commission on Monday rejected an Aurora developer's plan to build a 113-lot subdivision in the south hills.

Commissioners voted 4-3 against a critical point in an appeal filed by the developer, Joe Green, who owns 40 acres of hillside land off Dillard Road. Green had asked the planning panel to overturn a ruling issued against Green last month by Hearings Official Anne Corcoran Briggs.

The vote was a win for the neighborhood association that has fought Green's proposal and has even gone to the unusual length of raising tens of thousands of dollars to hire its own team of geologists and lawyers.

The city commission's split vote centered on the issue of whether Green's consultants adequately studied soil stability on his property. During a previous hearing before Briggs, geologists hired by the neighborhood group submitted evidence of ongoing soil slippage on the land.

Briggs noted in her decision that because Green never ordered underground boring tests to measure the extent of the land movement, he could not prove that new roads built to serve the subdivision would be stable. Under city regulations for hillside development, a developer must prove slopes are stable.

Green's engineers have admitted that a more detailed geotechnical investigation must be done before construction can proceed.

But because that work wasn't completed before Green filed his subdivision application, a planning commission majority ruled Monday that Briggs' decision was correct.

"The applicant unfortunately missed a significant issue, and opponents pointed that out," commission member Jon Belcher said, adding that Green's consultants "need to go back and start over."

Joining Belcher in voting to uphold Briggs' ruling were Ann Kneeland, Anthony McCown and Phillip Carroll. Commission members Randy Hledik, Rick Duncan and John Lawless supported granting Green tentative subdivision approval.

Green's attorney, Mark Hoyt of Salem, attended Monday's meeting. He said he will speak with his client about appealing to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

One way or the other, Hoyt said, Green will not give up his subdivision plan. "We are committed to developing the property," Hoyt said.

The Eugene-Springfield Area Metropolitan General Plan, the metro area's growth blueprint, designates the property for single-family homes.

Lisa Warnes, vice president of the Southeast Neighbors group that has fought development, expects that the fight is not over.

"I'm pleased with (the planning commission decision)," Warnes said. "I'm sure it will go to LUBA, and we're ready for that."

The neighborhood group hired a team of scientists and attorneys to contest the Green proposal, racking up about $40,000 in bills along the way. The group previously led successful appeals against two other subdivision plans in the south hills.

Opponents of development on Green's property believe the land should be purchased by the public and linked to an adjacent park and trail system. In 2004, Green outbid the city of Eugene for the Dillard Road property, paying $325,000 for the land. Urged by residents, the city later offered Green $430,000 for the parcel, but he wanted $600,000.
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Title Annotation:Government; Landowner Joe Green is unlikely to give up on his proposal to develop 40 acres
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 20, 2007
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