Residents living in the shadow of Mount Pisgah appreciate the quiet life.
Two land-use issues coming from opposite directions within the last year, however, have broken the serenity for the Seavey Loop area and its rural homes and farms, they say.
The residents won the first fight . They lobbied county leaders to cancel, for now, large gatherings at Emerald Meadows, the Howard Buford Recreation Area's outdoor events venue, following the booming bass and blinding light of last summer's Kaleidoscope Music Festival.
Now they've launched another campaign with letters to City Hall, yard signs and a website to oppose potential industrial development to the west.
City leaders are eyeing an expansion of Springfield's urban growth boundary into this, and one or two more areas, to help grow the local economy and create jobs, a move that Seavey Loop residents say could harm the area. A decision by Springfield city councilors and Lane County commissioners is expected by the end of the year.
John Helmer, a longtime Seavey Loop resident involved in both campaigns, lives close to the proposed boundary expansion. He said the Emerald Meadows debate has given residents the confidence to face this latest issue head-on.
"People are not sitting back and saying, 'Whatever happens, happens,'" he said.
Plan follows state law
City officials are entering the homestretch of a multiyear study of Springfield's employment future.
In 2009, a consultant recommended that Springfield expand its urban growth boundary by more than 600 acres. There was a dearth of commercial, mixed-use and industrial employment sites of more than 5 acres, based on predicted job growth, the consultant's report said.
State land-use law requires that cities maintain a 20-year land supply for jobs so communities have stable and healthy local economies.
Springfield officials have whittled the number of possible expansion sites from an initial 10 down to two, and perhaps three.
Two of the sites -- Seavey Loop, now being called College View by city planners, and North Gateway -- hug the east side of Interstate 5. The consultant said this proximity to I-5 is an attraction for major employers. (A city planner said they are now referring to the Seavey Loop area as College View to more accurately reflect the area under discussion.)
The third site brought back into the mix last week is along South 28th Street.
Loss of farmland cited
Seavey Loop residents say the expansion proposal would remove needed farmland, threaten the fragile ecosystem with water and air pollution, and spoil the gateway into the popular recreation area.
"This type of industry doesn't coexist with farming," said Charles Stewart, who owns an organic farm that abuts Oxley Slough near the proposed expansion area and is at the forefront of the campaign to oppose the expansion proposal.
Earlier this month, Stewart put up yard signs and sent mailers to more than 600 residents in the area alerting them to the expansion proposal, prompting a number of emails to city councilors from worried residents. He also published a column in The Eugene Weekly and provided information on a website, www.noindustrialpisgah.org .
His farm harvests each year between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds of fruits and vegetable, including apples, plums, green beans and zucchini. The produce is sold locally, including at Sundance Natural Foods and The Kiva grocery store in downtown Eugene.
Tom Murray, who manages the farm, said he worries about the potential loss of farmland. The larger parcels located east of Franklin Boulevard in the proposed expansion area are zoned for exclusive farm use. The smaller parcels are zoned as rural residential. Properties to the west of Franklin in the area are zoned for industrial use.
Murray said smaller local farms are vital to help first-generation farmers without a lot of money get their foot in the door. And residents will turn to locally grown food as volatile oil prices drive up the cost of food shipped from the other side of the country or world, he said.
"We can't just replace farmland," Murray said. "When it's gone, it's gone."
"Whatever it takes"
Larry Norris and his wife own a 6.5-acre horse training center in the area and worry that the potential for more industry will damage the area and hurt property values. He argued the city hasn't conclusively shown a need to expand its industrial lands when it has land available in Glenwood and south Springfield.
He said he's committed to fighting the proposal.
"The three words are 'whatever it takes',?" said Norris, who has handed out fliers on horseback to residents and visitors hiking up Mount Pisgah. "It's not going to happen."
City officials said they've recently scaled back the expansion proposal by one-third -- 249 acres compared with 362 acres. They said they did this to put more distance between any proposed industrial uses and rural homes and farms, and to remove land that has high-value soils or is prone to flooding. Sloping terrain and the presence of Bonneville Power Administration high-voltage power lines and restrictive rights-of-way were other reasons planners shrunk the area.
Stewart said the move to shrink the proposed expansion area does not soften the residents' opposition to it.
Most of the remaining lots in the proposed expansion area already are developed.
Planners also shrank the North Gateway proposed expansion area, to about 213 acres from the original 347 acres.
City committed to harmony
Springfield officials say they're seeking industries within the proposed expansion areas that are friendlier to the environment, such as call centers, food processors, high-tech companies, medical firms and small-scale manufacturers.
And, they say, they're committed to making sure any future industries and farmers can live in harmony. The city intends to identify measures that would be required to protect groundwater and riparian areas before any development could move forward in the proposed Seavey Loop expansion area.
Mayor Christine Lundberg said at a council meeting last week that the city's intent is not "to go and ruin and pillage" the area, but it recognizes that the area is a prime spot for industry given its proximity to I-5.
She also said it will be key for the city to ensure that wells in the area remain free of any contamination.
"We don't want an Erin Brockovich deal out here, and we're very conscious of that," she said, referring to the consumer advocate whose story became an Oscar-winning movie after she successfully sued a utility for contaminating drinking water in a California town.
It's the law, councilor says
Councilor Sheri Moore said she senses a perception among some residents that city officials are pushing the proposed expansion area to line their pockets. She said it's important for city officials to help them understand the city's reasoning.
"We're not just doing this willy-nilly because we decided we wanted to do this," she said. "This is a state mandate, and we are following that."
Helmer said residents had thought the area was off the table until they saw a May article in The Register-Guard about the estimated costs of the expansion proposals accompanied by a photo of Jeff Elliot, president of Johnson Crushers International Inc.
"We thought attention had shifted elsewhere," he said.
The local company, which makes equipment to crush rock, asphalt and concrete, has supported the expansion proposal so it can expand its plant onto property it owns across Franklin Boulevard that is now designated for exclusive farm use, Elliott has said.
The company plans to hire 125 to 140 more employees over the next five years, and the plant expansion is needed to accommodate the bigger workforce, he has said.
The city's reduction would leave out of the proposed expansion area more than half of the property Johnson Crusher wants to expand onto. The property is 19 acres, and the city's proposal would leave 8.8 buildable acres within an expanded urban growth boundary.
Johnson Crusher has been included in the Seavey Loop residents' campaign, with both Stewart's column and the website referring to the company without naming it. Stewart said he doesn't object to the company's expansion as long as it's away from his and other farms.
Both his column and the website noted the nearly $148,000 federal fine the company agreed to pay in 2011 for polluting the air with a hazardous chemical over a six-year period.
Elliott couldn't be reached for comment for this story.
State approval needed
Industrial development would not happen overnight if the city approved the expansion proposal.
The Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission has the final say on the expansion proposal, and its approval could be challenged in court.
The current expansion proposal with both Seavey Loop/College View and North Gateway has a total of up to three parcels between 20 and 50 acres, and three parcels of more than 50 acres, in line with consultant's recommendation.
The Seavey Loop/College View expansion area includes a 50-acre site owned by one family. A developer would need to buy smaller parcels of between 5 and 10 acres in size to further expand the 50-acre site or assemble another parcel for a major employment center.
Myrtle Brooks owns about 10 acres of property in the proposed expansion area. She lives and runs a business storing boats and recreational vehicles on the larger 6-acre parcel. She rents out the other two lots.
Brooks said she doesn't oppose the proposed expansion as long as officials let her be and it doesn't raise her taxes. But she has no interest in selling her land to developers.
"That's where I make my living, and that's where my home is at so I'm not interested," she said.
A property owner or developer would need to annex the assembled lands into the city and meet a host of city requirements before a development project could move forward to construction.
Before the reduction of the proposed expansion area, Springfield officials estimated it would cost the city and developers an estimated $76 million to prep the area for development with onsite and offsite road and utility improvements. The estimate includes extending 30th Avenue to Franklin Boulevard and Seavey Loop but doesn't include costly upgrades to the I-5 interchange that may be needed.
Eugene Springfield Fire has indicated the city would need to build and man a fire station and seek assistance from the Goshen Fire District for the area to meet the urban standard for emergency response, according to an April memo.
The Springfield Police Department said its response time would be longer to the area without hiring new officers, although it didn't expect a high number of calls at the future employment sites.
Both sides continue work
The City Council is starting its summer recess this week and won't resume its business until after Labor Day. During the break, planners will continue working through numerous steps to bring the proposal up for a final vote, including readying the zoning for each parcel that is proposed to be brought into the city's urban growth boundary.
Residents said they'll also be working to keep industry out of the area.
As he assists the campaign opposing the expansion proposal, Helmer is leading the group tasked with determining which county parks can accommodate large gatherings and the policies that would govern them. The Howard Buford Recreation Area is in that mix. The group's recommendation is set to go to the county commissioners for approval by June 2015.
"I yearn for the day when my neighborhood can be a more peaceful place again," Helmer said.