The North Campus Conditional Use Permit was approved Wednesday, Oct. 31 by the hearings official, according to a recent Around the O post. The permit gives the University control over 77 acres of land north of Franklin Boulevard for 30 years.
Those who oppose the permit have until Nov. 13 to submit an appeal. If it is appealed, the permit would go before a Eugene planning commision hearing in December or January. Allan Hancock, Eugene resident and member of the Riverfront Restoration and Education Group, said his group is considering whether to appeal.
“We haven’t made a decision yet,” Hancock said. “We may very well appeal.”
Community members, including those from the University of Oregon, have been at odds with UO Campus Planning for nearly two years over the proposed permit. Of particular debate was the permit application’s inclusion of athletic fields north of the railroad tracks.
Hancock and other critics argue that building fields north of the railroad tracks is environmentally unsuitable for the area, particularly if they are made of artificial turf. In a February 2018 UO Faculty Senate meeting, associate vice president for Campus Planning and Facilities Management and university architect Michael Harwood said the fields would not necessarily be artificial turf.
“The main thing we are concerned about is any kind of construction whether it be fields or buildings north of the railroad tracks,” Hancock said. “There’s a great amount of latitude as to what could happen, and basically it’s all been approved.”
Emily Eng, the senior planner with UO Campus Planning, said that the approval of the permit does not guarantee construction of anything specific. An amendment or a series of amendments to the Campus Plan — the master document for university planning — would be required before any ground is broken on the CUP.
Eleni Tsivitzi, the planning associate with UO Campus Planning, said the public would have multiple opportunities to provide feedback on any amendment to the campus plan.
“All Campus Planning Committee meetings are open to the public,” Tsivitzi said. “But especially with [a future amendment related to the CUP area], there would be a public hearing and a notice mailed out [to the public].”
Even if the permit is appealed, Campus Planning is continuing to strategize for the future. Eng said her department is starting a “field location study” this month that President Schill requested. The goal of the study is to determine the best location for new recreation fields. The area specified in the CUP is included in that search.
Critics of the permit also said the 30 year time period is too long and the university should consider splitting up the permit into two permits, one for north of the railroad tracks and one for south of the railroad tracks. Opponents also said the university did not adequately seek public input on the project.
Hancock said he wasn’t surprised the CUP was approved despite him and his colleges repeatedly voicing concerns they had about the project.
“Regardless of the decision by the hearings official,” Hancock said, “our group still believes that a great university like UO will recognize the value — the incredible value — of a riverfront it owns right near campus.”
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Read the Emerald’s previous coverage on the CUP process