Ryan Vogt, far right, executive director of Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, gives a presentation on Monday night to the City Council. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

While the last home in the Millpond Crossing subdivision’s first phase goes up on the corner of South 15th and Timothy and contractors dig up sections of South 16th to complete required second phase infrastructure work, a Philomath city councilor prepared on Monday night to dig deep into the housing development’s issues.

Councilor Catherine Biscoe was on the agenda to speak during the councilor reports portion of the meeting to talk about various concerns that have surfaced since the development was approved in May 2018. Biscoe compiled a list of 20 talking points that, among other things, covered a wide range of issues from methane gas and hydrogen sulfide readings, the impact of incorrect property lines and procedural questions related to the issuance of certificates of occupancy.

The largest audience to attend a City Council meeting since before the pandemic also filled the council chambers at City Hall with some of them in attendance to share their perspectives on the hardships and challenges of owning property in Millpond Crossing.

Early in the meeting before public comments or councilor reports — which are routinely scheduled near the end of the evening and often scratched because of a lack of time — City Attorney Jim Brewer intervened to recommend that councilors discuss the Millpond Crossing issues in a closed meeting.

“My professional opinion is that we need to have a frank and forthright conversation about those things and that litigation is likely to be filed,” Brewer said. “It’s not really clear yet what the city’s participation in that will be. There are lots of issues there.”

Brewer said he believed that the issue was not something that could be dealt with in executive session immediately after Monday’s meeting, but recommended scheduling a closed meeting to occur on the council’s next meeting date of Sept. 26.

“Unless there’s an objection, I think that gives me and the city manager some time to pull things apart and put together into timelines and provide some information for the council and we can have a conversation about it,” Brewer said. “It may be that you’re going to need more than one executive session on this.”

Five Millpond Crossing residents testified and a sixth person’s views were read into the record during public comments with various concerns and frustrations aired, many requesting for the city to intervene.

City Manager Chris Workman provided a brief update on the Millpond Crossing lot line adjustments issue during staff reports. Surveyors are expected to be on the site in the next few weeks to complete individual surveys with new legal descriptions to be completed, he said.

After those documents are recorded, the city will request proof of compensation in cases where property owners lost square footage because of lot line adjustments. Once those steps occur, the city will close its planning files and consider the matter completed.

“The city is just going to double-check that compensation’s been taken care of, which we don’t typically do but in this case we felt it was important based on the circumstances,” Workman said.

Workman said that under the conditions for approval, the developer cannot move on to any work on Phase 3 until all work on the previous phases have been completed.

In other news from the Sept. 12 meeting:

• Workman reported that he put in a request to send the latest engineering documents to Heather Glen’s developer related to North 11th Street improvements. Workman said he didn’t know for sure, but assumed that any of that work would likely not occur until next year. The city’s sidewalk and stormwater work on the street could happen this calendar year but may also be delayed due until after the wet weather months. Five North 11th Street residents testified during public comments with various concerns. 

• A public hearing to amend language related to flood hazard overlay municipal code included no testimony. The council approved the proposed code amendments on a unanimous vote. An ordinance will go to the council for final approval at a future meeting.

• Ryan Vogt, executive director of Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, gave a presentation on its year-end Benton County report. Senior and disability services, community service programs, veterans’ service office, community and economic development and technology service contracts were among the areas covered.

• The council unanimously approved a change to its audio/video records retention schedule. Audio recordings will be maintained for at least five years.

• The council’s approved $36,811 in social service funding allocations to ABC House ($5,000), Benton Habitat for Humanity ($5,861), Dementia Warriors ($2,000), Maxtivity ($1,200), Meals on Wheels ($1,500), Philomath Community Services ($8,750), Philomath Youth Activities Club ($8,000) and Strengthening Rural Families ($4,500).

• The council approved $10,000 in water and sewer revenue allocations to Vina Moses ($5,500) and We Care ($4,500).

• The council rejected on a 4-3 vote the terms of a franchise agreement with Alyrica Networks after discussing various issues, primarily those related to fairness. The city manager was directed to reach back out to Alyrica to work with them on a revised agreement “with appropriate updates and the current fee schedule” — as a motion by Councilor Ruth Causey stated. Upon further discussion, councilors expressed interest in supporting the local telecommunications business but as Councilor Matt Lehman said, “we just need to make sure everybody’s playing by the same rules.”

• Workman said the latest timeline shows work on the Downtown Safety and Streetscapes Improvement Project at six to eight weeks out based on the finalization of various documents and notices.

• Workman said he expects a request for proposals to be issued within the next two weeks for construction of the water reservoir, which represents the first phase of the city’s water treatment plant project on South Ninth Street. He said the hope is to award a contract and begin the project before the ground gets too wet this winter.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.