City councilors were unconvinced by property owners Palmberg Paving Co. that a zoning change was needed to promote higher-density housing on a 27-acre property in Gearhart.

The owners had hoped to rezone 498 McCormick Gardens Road in advance of a sale.

After receiving flood maps, soil analysis and housing data, among other documents, the Planning Commission held two meetings this fall and received input before recommending denial, said City Planner Carole Connell.

Low elevation, drainage issues, questions about soils and the property’s former industrial use led to concerns from commissioners. The change, from rural agricultural to medium-density residential, could have delivered 10 parcels on 7.5 buildable acres, about 20 percent of the site.

At Wednesday’s City Council public hearing, the owners asked the council to reconsider the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

Heidi Palmberg Snidow and consultant Li Alligood, of Otak, sought to alleviate contamination, traffic and quality of life concerns.

Snidow stressed the family’s decades of supporting the community. “We really do want to see the best for Gearhart in years to come,” she said.

Snidow said the family seeks to sell the property to a developer “who can create a residential community consistent with the growth that is and has been happening.”

The hearing was for a zone change only, she added, and any development would be subject to city review.

But neighbors and city councilors echoed the Planning Commission’s earlier concerns.

Roads are too narrow for the additional traffic, said McCormick Gardens Road resident Gloria Edler. “It’s nice for a rural area — but gosh, to add 50, 100 cars, I can’t even imagine such a thing.”

McCormick Gardens Road homeowner Mary Chandler said “the traffic on that road is enough as it is. It could just be a nightmare.”

City Councilor Paulina Cockrum said she was “uncomfortable moving forward at this time with this plan. We’ve being asked to approve something with many issues that are still unknown. That makes me uncomfortable.”

A motion to deny rezoning was unanimously carried by Cockrum, Reita Fackerell, Kerry Smith and Mayor Matt Brown. Councilor Dan Jesse, as a neighbor to the property, did not vote.

City officials, however, left a path forward for future development on the property.

The rural agricultural zone does allow a “cluster development” option, Connell said, with each buildable acre offering a 10,000-square-foot lot.

“If they didn’t change the zone, they could have 20 single-family lots on the property in a cluster manner through the Planning Commission without a zone change,” Connell said. “They could do that now.”

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