Planning Commission Rejects Zone Change for Canby Townhomes

The Canby Planning Commission has denied the zone change necessary for the Canby Townhomes development to move forward, a decision that could lead to litigation if it’s upheld by the City Council.

The Canby Townhomes is a planned development of 38 townhouses (single-family homes with a shared wall) on the corner of 13th and Ivy, across from the Canby senior center. The swim center, Hope Village and Ackerman and Philander Lee schools are also nearby.

Everything hinges on the zoning for the property, which is R-1 (low-density residential). This would allow a maximum of 8 to 10 houses on a lot this size. Problem is, when the developer began working with the city, he was told that the property was zoned C-R (commercial/residential), which allows a much higher density.

City maps also listed the property as C-R, and in fact, the For Sale sign that still stands at the site advertises it as being zoned C-R. It all stems from an apparent oversight made during the city’s comprehensive planning process in 2003, where the property was highlighted as being a good fit for C-R zoning, and was given that label as a “placeholder,” but was never actually changed from R-1. This “placeholder” designation was lost in translation somehow, and later maps produced by the city planning department would show the property as simply having a normal C-R zoning.

When the Canby Townhomes project came before the Planning Commission on Sept. 10, neighbors and residents packed in to oppose it, citing traffic, safety and privacy concerns. And in the end, commissioners voted to deny the zone change, 4-1. Their decision is not final, but will serve as a recommendation to the City Council.

Roland Iparraguirre, a lawyer representing the developer, said his client has worked closely with city planning staff and, at their direction, invested thousands of dollars in traffic studies, site design and other costly preparations — all under the mistaken belief that the property was C-R zoned. If the Planning Commission’s decision is upheld, Iparraguire said his client may be forced to litigate to recover these and other costs.

“Since 2003, any applicant, any purchaser, any person interested in the property would have been told by the planning department that it was C-R zoned,” Iparraguirre said. “So, it’s not as easy as saying, ‘Hey, let’s make it R-1 now.’ You can’t just make those 15 years of active decisions and representations go away. Unfortunately, these decisions do have consequences.”

We do want to be clear that this is an open and ongoing case, and no one with the city can comment on it until a final decision is made by the City Council. Most public officials don’t comment on potential lawsuits because these statements can come back to haunt them later in court, which is also why state law allows these matters to be discussed in closed session. Also, this is a very complicated planning issue. And while we’ve done our best to simplify things while remaining accurate, we recognize that we may not have done so to the complete satisfaction of all parties involved.

The City Council will consider the zone change on Oct. 3.

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