In December the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) considered two appeals about Salem Hospital’s quest to develop the 8-½ acres it purchased from the School for the Blind in 2010.
In the case of one, LUBA found against Beverly Rushing’s effort to preserve the last remaining historical building, Howard Hall, which the Hospital seeks to tear down.
In the case of the second, LUBA sided against Salem Hospital’s plans to install a certain number of parking spaces and cut a certain number of trees, including significant trees, on its property.
This second opinion, * is a 21-page, multi-part decision, describing the arguments of South Central Association of Neighbors (SCAN) and several neighborhood residents who hoped to modify the Hospital’s plans. Salem Hospital and the City of Salem were allied respondents.
In one part of its response, LUBA found against Salem Hospital’s plans to build 264 surface parking spaces instead of the 189 maximum allowed by City Code. LUBA found that Salem Hospital wrongly calculated the number of parking spaces it could install on the property because it didn’t follow City code that mandates minimum and maximum parking spots. The Hospital, LUBA said, desired to build more parking spots than allowable because it estimated its number based on the size of its entire campus, rather than the 8 ½ acres alone.
“This was a very important victory for anyone who values long-term planning in the Salem,” says Curt Fisher, transportation advocate and among the petitioners who objected to the hospital’s parking lot plans. “The hospital’s short-sighted desire for free and unlimited parking has come at a tremendous cost. We have displaced schools, torn out playgrounds, cut trees, demolished historic resources and scarred the urban fabric of our city to appease their appetite for more parking spaces. Salem has laws to prevent this. It is unfortunate Salem planners don’t see the value in enforcing them.”
LUBA also found against the hospital’s request for a variance to city code that would allow it to cut nine significant Oregon White Oak trees on its property. LUBA said the hospital could not cut the trees, home to vulnerable Western Grey Squirrels and slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch, for its parking lot.
Other arguments related to bicycle access and safety – that the Hospital should construct bike lanes on the property and improve bicycle facilities at a nearby intersection – were denied or waived by LUBA.
On Monday, January 5, the day the decision became known, Salem Hospital crews cut at least 15 trees, including eight Douglas fir more than 190 years old, three between 265 – 290 years old (meaning they germinated between the years 1725 and 1750.) Six were Oregon white oak, two of them 115 years old.
Oregon law allows judicial review of the decision.