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The right 'somewhere'.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Many baby boomers remember the character Maynard G. Krebbs on the old sit-com "Dobie Gillis." Whenever the peripatetic beatnik was asked, "What are you doing here?" his invariable reply was: "Everybody's got to be somewhere, man."

So it is with vital public facilities - from prisons to landfills to grade schools to courthouses to homeless shelters. They all have to be somewhere. Despite their very unbeatnik-like image, so do National Guard armories.

It's looking these days as if Oregon military officials have finally landed on the appropriate "somewhere" for a new armory in Lane County - a 22 1/2 -acre undeveloped parcel on Marcola Road just east of 31st Street in Springfield.

At first glance, the Springfield site appears superior in every aspect to the 35-acre site that the Oregon Military Department purchased a decade ago in the Russel Creek basin across 30th Avenue from the Lane Community College Campus.

The Russel Creek site has been mired in controversy and litigation since National Guard officials started getting serious about building the armory several years ago.

The Russel Creek Neighbors Association, citing a host of objections ranging from wetlands to weapons safety, has fought the project in both state and federal appeals court

Unjustly accused of purely NIMBY motivations, the group's opposition to the construction of the 122,000-square-foot armory has been well founded.

The 30th Avenue site is located outside the city's urban growth boundary, and that fact alone should have been sufficient grounds for selecting a different location. Not only does the site lack access to the regional sewer system, but questionable drainage and the presence of wetlands make alternative sewage systems a costly and uncertain enterprise - just check with LCC officials next door.

Congestion was another problem, with traffic from LCC students causing regular jam-ups on the nearby McVay Highway. The prospect of adding hundreds of people training at the site on weekends and convoys of military vehicles was not a happy one.

Then there's the matter of aesthetics. The Russel Creek Basin provides unquestionably the most attractive gateway into the city. Construction of even the best designed of armories would have had a negative impact on the expanse of lush, green wetlands and rolling hills that flank 30th Avenue as it rolls into south Eugene.

Community opposition to the armory was also entrenched. Neighbors, including some with nearby farm and livestock operations, protested the National Guard's plans, citing impacts of traffic, sewage and runoff treatment, lighting, firing-range noise, outdoor training and a host of other concerns. The release of a draft environmental review that cited minimal impacts failed to diminish the neighbors' determination to fight the project.

Military officials appear likely to face few, if any, such complications with the new Springfield site, which already has appropriate light-medium industrial zoning and no problematic wetlands.

The shift to the Springfield site cleared a major hurdle on Friday

when the Lane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to complete the immediate purchase of the Oregon Military Department's existing armory facility on Centennial Boulevard. That, in turn, will free up $1.3 million that the National Guard needs to pursue purchase of the Springfield site.

The county agreed in 1998 to buy the existing armory facility next to the John Serbu Youth Campus on Centennial Boulevard. After the military moves into its new armory, the county plans to convert it into a work release and training center for delinquent youths.

The National Guard must also secure the additional funding from Congress needed to build its new armory. Congress has appropriated $8.3 million for the project so far, slightly less than a third of the estimated total cost of the new facility - a discrepancy that the local congressional delegation should go to work resolving.

If the military is able to resolve the remaining obstacles - and if the Springfield site is as free of complications as it appears, construction of a new armory should begin in the not-too-distant-future.
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Title Annotation:Armory appears headed for Springfield site; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 5, 2003
Previous Article:Letters in the Editor's Mailbag.
Next Article:A date of note.

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