Excellent job, Salem Weekly editors.
Your reporting in "Master Plan? What Master Plan? The Lesson of Sustainable Fairview" was hugely better than the superficial articles published in the Salem Statesman Journal on this subject. You exposed the sad truth:
Salem's opportunity to have a world-class mixed-use sustainable development now almost certainly has been frittered away through the City Council's short-sighted kissing up to Simpson Hills, LLC -- which gets to build barely-green (if even that) conventional apartments on a site that could have featured cutting edge environment-friendly design.
My wife and I were investors in Sustainable Fairview Associates, LLC, the group which bought the property on which the Fairview Training Center was located.
We were involved in many meetings where plans for Sustainable Fairview were laid, ending in a Master Plan for the several hundred beautiful acres that seemed to guarantee that very high Green standards would have to be met by whoever developed the property.
Pringle Creek Community did just that after thirty-some acres were purchased from Sustainable Fairview Associates (SFA). By that time my wife and I were getting frustrated with the management of SFA, and I'd become a gadfly who annoyed many of the other investors. So after the Pringle Creek Community sale we sold our shares back to SFA for a decent profit.
I've remained interested in Sustainable Fairview though and continue to blog about the development. Just as I am now.
Ah, what could have been... And now, won't be. Read the Salem Weekly piece and learn how Simpson HIlls was able to get permission from the City Council to modify the Sustainable Fairview Master Plan into a pathetic pale shadow of it's former vivid Greenness.
One of our reasons for investing in Sustainable Fairview Associates was a realization that -- news flash! -- we're getting older. Someday, hopefully quite a few years off, our non-easy-care house is going to be too much for us to happily handle. My wife and I had envisioned living in either a smaller Sustainable Fairview detached home, or a condo of some sort.
We liked the idea of living in a community of environmentally-minded people, with cars and roads downgraded in importance, being able to walk and bike around the development and surrounding neighborhoods, enjoying on-site amenities like a healthy restaurant, social center, coffee house, and such.
Now that dream seemingly has disappeared.
Simpson HIlls, LLC controls about half of the remaining Sustainable Fairview property, I believe. It now has free rein to build essentially conventional housing, with essentially conventional roads and parking lots, likely camoflaged by a thin veneer of minimalist "Earth Advantage" double-speak.
Salem Weekly reported what transpired at the City Council meeting where Simpson HIlls got its way:
Mayor Peterson: “For us to sit here and say, ‘you’re going to have to build that to a gold standard’ is to say to that developer, ‘forget your bottom line, forget your funding, you’re going to have to do it this way.’”
And so Nanke’s second bid was dismissed.
Then, over Nanke’s and Bennett’s objections, the Council approved Simpson Hills’ plan.
The result? A development that’s standard in an area that was supposed to be outstanding. Because the city – from Planning Commission to planning staff to City Council – sold Fairview out.
True. The City of Salem sold out the dream of Sustainable Fairview.
But the way I see it, blame for the mediocrity that Sustainable Fairview will become (aside from Pringle Creek Community, which is doing things right) needs to be more broadly spread around to include...
-- Sustainable Fairview Associates, which had opportunities to sell the property to a genuinely Green developer back in the days when the housing market was booming and interest was pretty strong in the former Fairview site. SFA also failed to insure that Simpson Hills would have to abide by the Sustainable Fairview Master Plan when it developed the acreage that it bought from SFA. Why wasn't a clause to this effect included in the sales agreement?
-- Morningside Neighborhood Association, which represents the area adjacent to Sustainable Fairview. The board of the association initially strongly fought against the Simpson HIlls conventional apartments plan, but ended up voting narrowly (5-4, if I remember correctly from a news story) to endorse the mildly green'ified Simpson Hills proposal. Likely this encouraged the City Council to approve the so-called "refinements" to the Master Plan, which actually were "dismemberments."
-- Everyone who lives in and near Salem, including me, who passively puts up with never-ending mediocrity in our city. I've tried to point out a fresh path forward through my Strange Up Salem effort. However, by and large I sit on my butt and complain about Salem's lameness rather than doing something about it.
I've theorized that a curse sits upon Salem, dooming us to be forever average while Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene (among other cooler, greener, more thriving Oregon cities) soar beyond us. This, though, is defeatist thinking.
The Sustainable Fairview debacle, though, is just that: a defeat for Salem. There was an opportunity to make this property highly special. Now it'll become like almost everything is in Salem: acceptably OK. Nothing more.