Hess et al v. City of Corvallis

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Municipal Law
  • Date Filed: 10-28-2014
  • Case #: 2014-040/042
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Ryan
  • Full Text Opinion

Documents that are not sufficiently described cannot be incorporated into findings of fact, and cannot be relied upon as findings to support a decision when specific challenges are raised with regard to the adequacy of those findings.

Campus Crest Communities (CCC) sought to develop a 296-unit apartment building, and to do so applied to redesignate 57.7 acres of Low Density Residential and 36.9 acres of Open Space-Conservation to 24.6 acres of Medium-High Density Residential and 70 acres of Open Space-Conservation. The planning commission denied the applications, but the city council approved them with conditions on appeal by CCC. LUBA consolidated appeals by Hess et al. and Goodmonson.

Hess first argued that the city’s findings were inadequate due to their attempt to incorporate a large number of documents. LUBA held that the city could incorporate documents, but that their attempted incorporation of documents that were not sufficiently described could not be used as findings to defend a decision on a specific challenge to adequacy of findings. Hess challenged findings by the city council that it was not required to review for consistency of the comprehensive plan amendments with Corvallis Comprehensive Plan (CCP) policies 9.3.2, 9.4.6, or 9.4.7 or that the council would have found consistency if required. LUBA held that the city was correct in not requiring a review for consistency and that an error in alternative findings would have been harmless. Hess then challenged the adequacy of findings made to satisfy CCP policy 1.2.3, which lists approval criteria for comprehensive plan amendments. LUBA rejected this contention, holding that the city’s findings on all three criteria of CCP policy 1.2.3 were supported by substantial evidence and that Hess’ challenges were mostly underdeveloped disagreements with how the city chose to subjectively assess those criteria.

Goodmonson first challenged the city’s determination that the zoning changes would not significantly affect a transportation facility. LUBA held that the city was not required to base its decision on a local traffic study. However, due to the city’s failure to properly incorporate documents, their reliance on those documents to support their decision in response to Goodmonson’s engineer’s testimony was error. Accordingly remand is appropriate for the city to adopt findings addressing the issues raised in that testimony. Goodmonson made additional arguments that the city failed to consider the impact on endangered species and that the decision conflicted with Statewide Planning Goal 10 (Housing). LUBA rejected these, holding that Goodmonson had failed to raise the endangered species issue below, and that the Goal 10 argument was insufficiently developed. REMANDED.