By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Urban renewal plan wins approval

By contrast, neighbors of a new memory care unit, proposed for a site adjacent to the existing Fircrest Assisted Living Facility on Northeast Fircrest Drive, had plenty to say. And they showed up in such number they nearly filled the McMinnville Planning Commission hearing room.

After discussing urban renewal workings with consultant Elaine Howard, they voting unanimously to find the draft plan consistent with the comprehensive plan. Next stop is the city council, which has the final say on adoption.

After hearing from both opponents and proponents, the commission approved the memory care unit 5-1, with Martin Chroust Masin casting the dissenting vote and Commissioners Remy Drabkin and John Tiedge abstaining. Drabkin and Tiedge said they were uncomfortable with a street maintenance issue raised by neighbors, but not to the point of opposing the project outright.

PEG LLC, which owns the assisted living facility, plans to site the dementia unit directly across the privately owned street. It would include upstairs apartments for spouses who want to live independently, but in close proximity.

Neighbors expressed concern with traffic safety, parking, generator siting and street maintenance.

The parcels owned by PEG include an easement ensuring street access. But adjacent homeowners are responsible for maintaining the street, not PEG.

Architect Bruce Kenny said the company was willing to make some concessions in response to the concerns expressed at the meeting.

He said it was willing to extend a sidewalk along Fircrest Drive, to loop the project and address concerns regarding pedestrian safety. He said it was also willing to cover some of the cost of street maintenance, and might be willing to widen the entrance to the parking lot.

Though the urban renewal project is much larger in scope — it would encompass 175 acres of the downtown and Northeast Gateway districts — it drew no such attention.

Howard said the city proposes to upgrade streets and sidewalks, rehab dilapidated buildings, develop new signage and pursue further improvements. She said the plan authorizes the city to borrow up to $30 million against future tax revenues.

The improvements the city makes are designed to spur private investment, thus increase property values. Money from rising property values would be used to pay off the loans.

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