I like David and Goliath stories. I always root for David, the little guy or gal.
That's why I'm hoping Salem's small 35-student Heritage School gets treated fairly by City officials and the City Council regarding its concerns about what the large, rich, and powerful Mountain West Investment Corporation wants to build adjacent to the school.
A Statesman Journal story mostly misses the point about why the Heritage School wants to see changes made to a Mountain West proposal to build a 180-unit apartment complex next to the school.
The story, "Salem's Fairview Training Center was intended as a green business, residential community. What happened?," veers off into describing the complex history of Fairview after the 275 acre site in south Salem was bought in 2002 by a group of people with a dream of fashioning the property into a world-class sustainable community.
[UPDATE: I shared a PDF file of the story, but the Statesman Journal just told me that even though I've subscribed to the newspaper for 42 years, it's a no-no to share the copyrighted story, so I removed the file.]
But the real story is about what's happening today, not yesterday.
Looking back is fine as a historical exercise.
However, the conflict between what Mountain West wants to construct and what the Heritage School considers to be in accord with Master Plans for developments on the Fairview property almost certainly is going to come before the Salem City Council eventually, so the Mayor, councilors, and City officials need to have a firm grasp on a few simple truths that weren't emphasized enough in the Statesman Journal story.
Here's the truths:
(1) Further development at Fairview is supposed to be guided by the 2005 Fairview Master Plan and 2016 Amended Fairview Refinement Plan. There are other refinement plans, such as the Pringle Creek Community and Fairview Addition refinement plans, both of which emphasize principles of sustainability that are supposed to be reflected in every Fairview development project.
(2) The Heritage School bought property at Fairview in 2004, expecting that further development in the acreage surrounding the school would be developed in accord with the Fairview Master Plan. Sure, "refinements" to that plan were expected, but not massive changes.
(3) Indeed, the 2016 refinement plan says, "Special care is taken as the land added to the Refinement Plan area is regulated to be compatible with the adjoining land uses." So since the Heritage School has been at Fairview for 15 years, people involved with the school rightfully expect that the Mountain West apartment complex will reflect the above-mentioned principles of sustainability, as Pringle Creek Community and Fairview Addition do to a large extent.
(4) But Mountain West basically has plans to construct three-story buildings that are similar, if not identical, to other apartment complexes it has built. Only lip service is being paid to green construction, preserving natural surroundings, encouraging alternative transportation, and other sustainable principles that are supposed to be followed by those developing property at what's known as "Sustainable Fairview."
Obviously Mountain West Investment Corporation knew it was buying land that's supposed to be developed in accord with the Fairview Master Plan and Refinement Plan. Yet the company is asking for a bunch of variances that would allow it to escape various requirements of those plans.
See my first blog post on this subject, "Salem's Heritage School seeks changes to Mountain West apartment complex plan."
It's important to note that what the Heritage School is requesting is that Mountain West be required to build the apartment complex in accord with the sustainable vision that makes the Fairview property unique in Salem.
Seemingly Mountain West is counting on City staff, the Planning Commission, and the City Council on being willing to give a big rich, powerful "Goliath" developer an exemption from the sustainable principles that drew the Heritage School, Pringle Creek Community, and Fairview Addition/Olsen Development to Fairview.
Which isn't fair.
Since Mountain West wants to build a standard cookie-cutter apartment complex, it should have bought land elsewhere in Salem, not at Fairview. Plunking a non-sustainable development in the middle of the Sustainable Fairview property diminishes the stake of those who chose to locate at Fairview before Mountain West.
The Statesman Journal story describes the minimal commitment Mountain West is making to Fairview's sustainable vision.
Brian Moore, Mountain West's director of real estate development, outlined features of the development "that we believe advance sustainable purposes." Those include the installation of electric-vehicle charging stations and the preservation of 21 mature trees, with plans to plant more than 250 additional trees.
Whoopee. This is pathetic.
I'm pretty sure Mountain West is required to preserve the mature trees in accord with a tree conservation plan in the 2016 Refinement Plan. And a few charging stations is almost insulting to the original vision of Sustainable Fairview.
My wife and I owned shares in Sustainable Fairview Associates from 2003 to 2006, when we checked out with a 30% profit after I became a SFA gadfly -- being dissatisfied with how development of the property was being carried out (or rather, attempted to be carried out).
So it's pained me to observe how the original vision for Sustainable Fairview has been steadily chipped away, with the notable exception of Pringle Creek Community. Some of the blame for this falls on City officials who care more about having some sort of development occur at Fairview rather than requiring quality sustainable development.
And here we go again, revisiting what happened in 2012 when I pleaded in a blog post, "City Council, preserve the vision of 'Sustainable Fairview.'" Back then, as now, a standard apartment complex was planned for what should be a special community. Hopefully the City Council will act more wisely this time. Here's some excerpts from the post:
Please, Salem (Oregon) City Council. Pretty please.
Don't allow the beautiful property in south Salem to become less than the world-class Green development that Sustainable Fairview currently is zoned as.
A few days ago I learned that the Salem Planning Commission is OK with turning the undeveloped portion of the property from a vibrant green to a blah gray, architecturally speaking. On May 14 the City Council meets to decide whether to allow Simpson Hills, LLC to build a bunch of typical apartments on 43 of the 104 acres it owns at the site that used to house the Fairview Training Center.
...When Simpson Hills, LLC bought 104 acres of the Sustainable Fairview property, the buyers knew that this was, duh..., a sustainable development with especially sustainable zoning regulations that had been approved by the City of Salem quite a few years ago.
The vision of the Sustainable Fairview Master Plan, for example, included having highly energy-efficient homes; all stormwater captured on site; minimal emphasis on cars/roads; varied types of housing; mixed uses on site so people could "live, work, and play" in a conveniently compact area.
Disappointingly, Simpson Hills, LLC now wants to back off substantially from those laudable goals.
Note the expanse of gray in the plan for lots 1-3 above. Those are parking lots and roads. Lots of lots. Lots of roads. The rain water that runs off them, which will be lots, is planned to end up in the holding pond shown on the right of the drawing. Then all the water will go into Pringle Creek.
Pringle Creek Community, by contrast, has permeable asphalt and other ways of capturing stormwater. And the original plans for Sustainable Fairview envisioned limited "obvious" parking, with cars sequestered behind dwelling units, rather than prominently parked front and center.
...Simpson Hills, LLC shouldn't be allowed to breeze into town with a cookie-cutter proposal for the Sustainable Fairview property that maximizes profits for themselves and minimizes Salem's chance to have a world class Green development.
...Frequently I critique Salem's blah'ness on this blog. There's a good reason Oregon's capital is nicknamed "So-lame." Often, it is.
Sustainable Fairview is a non-lame flash of creativity, innovation, excitement, and world-class Green design that needs to be nurtured, not crushed by a Simpson Hills, LLC proposal which seeks to markedly diminish those qualities.
Well, ditto with the current Mountain West proposal.