Philomath City Hall
Philomath City Hall (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The average person on a Monday night may not be too interested in spending the evening listening to complex Comprehensive Plan analysis reports — especially within the confines of the virtual environment.

But city councilors and planning commissioners pushed forward on Jan. 25 with a joint meeting and public hearing as part of a required step in the ultimate goal of updating the city’s comp plan — the document that reflects what Philomath wants and is legally required to have in its land-use policies, regulations and map designations while setting forth a vision for the future.

The public hearing included plenty of questions and comments with councilors and commissioners interacting with ECONorthwest consultants and talking among themselves on various facets of the process and intent of documents.

The one person from the public who testified during the hearing talked about issues related to a desire to see zoning on College Street changed from office/residential to high-density residential.

“I understand that was changed to O/R zone roughly 35 years ago to support the couplet coming through the area there and that never happened,” Tim Sallee testified. “The zone was just left in place when it should’ve been changed back.

“With that being O/R zoned through there, what that has done is it’s hindered the progress and growth on College Street,” he added.

Sallee would like to partition a quarter-acre lot on the corner of College and 16th to build a home next to the residence of an aging parent. During his talk, he made reference to the consultant recommending mixed-use zoning.

“Philomath has some charm in the city there and College Street is part of that natural charm that the city has and if you go and put a dentist office here and a florist here, it’s going to mess up the residential area,” Sallee said.

ECONorthwest consultant Beth Goodman responded, “What to do with the O/R zoning is a very complex issue and I think it will require a lot of public discussion.”

Sallee’s area of discussion is just one view that exists within the community. Philomath has seen an influx of development over the past few years and some residents have voiced disapproval with the addition of apartment complexes and single-family home construction that they fear will threaten resources such as water supply, further congest transportation routes and in a general sense, change the community’s small-town charm.

The comp plan update is designed to provide direction with land-use issues over the next 20 years. As a result, some of those involved in the Jan. 25 meeting hope to figure out how to get more citizens to share views in public hearings — a challenge to say the least during COVID times with no face-to-face interaction, no large charts and graphs on easels, no cookies and lemonade.

The overlying purpose of the meeting, which lasted nearly 3-½ hours, was to serve as an opportunity to hear questions and comments on the consultant’s Economic Opportunities Analysis and Housing Needs Analysis, review aspects of the project and process, and discuss the next steps. The Main Street Plan was also part of the discussion.

The City Council and Planning Commission plans to participate in a joint meeting again on Feb. 22 to discuss any changes to the economic development and housing strategy documents.

A Planning Commission public hearing is scheduled for March 15.

The public can provide additional written comments:

• By email to the city recorder at no later than 5 p.m. on Feb. 8.

• By submitting physically in the City Hall drop box by 5 p.m. on Feb. 8.

• By mailing to P.O. Box 400, Philomath, OR 97370, postmarked no later than Feb. 5.