By CRAIG COLEMAN
MONMOUTH -- City officials have given preliminary approval for the annexation of two undeveloped parcels of land totaling about 91 acres near the northeastern edge of Monmouth.
At least 30 acres of that property are being eyed by its prospective buyer for development into residential neighborhoods.
The city council at its Feb. 1 meeting unanimously approved a request to place the annexation of Laura Verdigan's property at 9140 Hoffman Road on the local ballot this May and let voters decide whether the proposal goes through.
The property currently is being used as farmland and has a Polk County industrial and light industrial zoning designation.
The parcels are west of Ash Creek Intermediate School, and north of the city's waste water treatment plant.
Pending voter approval, Frank Walker, a land-use consultant from Salem who represents parties seeking to buy the parcels, said he would ask the city to rezone 30 acres of the property's easternmost edge from industrial to single-family residential use.
Walker declined to disclose the name of the potential buyer.
The plan is to develop that section in 10-acre phases as the local real estate market is able to absorb more housing, he said.
The rest of the property would keep its industrial zoning but wouldn't likely be used for industrial purposes, Walker said.
"The intention is to buffer the school complex with residential rather than industrial uses," he said.
The Ash Creek corridor that runs through the property would also be preserved and integrated with the Ash Creek Multi-Use Trail being planned by Monmouth and Independence officials, Walker said.
While city staff recommended approval of the annexation for placement on the May ballot, it also noted that the scope of the project would necessitate the need for future review of sewer, water and other utilities.
For example, full development of the 91 acres could require expansion of the sewer pump station, officials said.
"If all the houses were being built tomorrow, we'd have difficulty," City Manager Jim Hough said. "But, we're not even getting the voters' answer to the annexation question until May.
"With every annexation, by the time the impact occurs, we think we'll have improved the capacity of our systems."
September would be the earliest the proposed project could break ground if the annexation and rezoning are granted and other permits acquired, according to Walker.
In other business, officials from WIMPEG, the cable public access channel operated by Monmouth, Independence and Western Oregon University, have asked for the city's consideration during its next budget cycle.
Bev Davis, WIMPEG board chair, said the organization is seeking a collective $25,000 from the councils of both towns for equipment upgrades to expand the channel's programming offerings.
The all-volunteer organization receives about 5 percent of the franchise fees paid to Monmouth by Charter Communications. That amounts to about $4,000 annually, Davis said.
Airing away games of Central High School and Western Oregon sports teams could be one improvement, Davis said. WIMPEG is trying to acquire a van from Capitol Community Television in Salem to do remote broadcasts.