Planning Commission set to vote on SOU master plan

Eight months after Southern Oregon University withdrew its 10-year master plan from the Planning Commission to get more community input, the commission is scheduled to vote on an almost identical plan.

The commission will discuss the controversial plan at a 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting in the City Council chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

"As we looked over the plan, they identified changes in highlighted text and the changes really aren't that significant in terms of the key issues that were raised," said Bill Molnar, the city's community development director.

The plan was not changed significantly, because many criticisms of the plan came from misunderstandings that university officials believe have since been cleared up, said Larry Blake, SOU's director of campus planning and sustainability.

"I really felt that the neighborhood meeting provided the campus neighbors and the community a chance to hear their concerns and for us to provide our side of the story," said Blake, who is also a Planning Commission member.

The plan calls for increasing student housing on campus, making Siskiyou Boulevard safer for pedestrians, improving the visibility of the campus and creating faculty housing in campus areas that border other neighborhoods.

Community members were especially critical of the university's plans to construct more faculty and student housing, because they feared it might intrude on already established neighborhoods.

In July, the commission held a public hearing on the plan, but ran out of time to vote on it after 26 community members signed up to comment. Most of the speakers criticized the plan.

A few days later, SOU officials announced they were withdrawing the plan from the commission in order to solicit more community input. The university held a neighborhood meeting in October where locals could meet with architects and SOU officials, and propose changes to the plan.

Community members at the well-attended meeting were less critical than university officials were expecting, Blake said.

"There was less opposition to things that we were presenting, than what might have been perceived in the public hearing situation," he said. "We felt that there was more support than we might have thought."

Blake will not attend Tuesday's deliberations because his involvement with the commission and the university presents a conflict of interest, he said.

City planning officials are recommending that the commission approve the master plan, with a set of stipulations.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a work session on the plan March 15 and to vote on it April 20, Molnar said. Even if the plan is approved, most of the proposed buildings will need to go through the city planning process again before construction can begin, he said.

Blake said he doesn't expect any construction to begin for at least two years. Although Blake feels university officials have mollified many critics of the plan, some community members are still opposed to it, he said.

"I think there is a desire by some of the neighbors that there not be any change," he said. "They probably like it best when classes aren't in session and things are quiet."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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