Planners Set Conditions for UO Arena, Recommend Permit Approval

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Eugene planners are recommending that a hearings officer approve the University of Oregon's plans for a $227 million basketball arena by granting the conditional use permit needed to start construction.

The planners' report, issued a week ahead of an Oct. 7 public hearing, sets out 18 conditions the city feels the UO must address to win approval. They range from technical code compliance issues to setting up a special event parking district to help keep arena patrons from clogging neighborhood streets.

The 40-page report covers a long list of planning issues and is a key step in the university's efforts to finally win approval of the new basketball pavilion, which will replace aging McArthur Court as the home of the Duck men's and women's basketball teams. The UO hopes to open the 12,500-seat arena by fall 2010.

A hearings official will review the staff report and take public testimony on the proposal before issuing a final decision, which must come within 15 days after the deadline for submitting comments. That decision can be appealed to the Eugene Planning Commission.

UO general counsel Melinda Grier said university officials didn't have time to completely review the report, which was released just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. But she said an initial review didn't immediately turn up any problems.

"I think we felt comfortable," she said. "I think it reflects a lot of hard work by the university and the neighbors. I don't think anybody saw anything there that they said they couldn't do."

Although the staff recommendation marks a significant step forward for the UO and its controversial arena, it is a big advance for residents of the nearby Fairmount neighborhood compared to earlier arena plans. It was an appeal by the neighborhood association that forced the UO to seek a conditional use permit, which in turn pushed the university to agree to big changes in how it will address parking and other issues. A Fairmount neighborhood leader could not be reached for comment.

A central feature of the new arena plan is a special event parking district that would block arena patrons from parking their cars on neighborhood streets by imposing a two-hour limit seven days a week. Parking fines would double during arena events.

But the plan allows the UO to sell special permits allowing up to 500 cars to park in the neighborhood. Revenue from the permits would go back to the city to pay for enforcement in the special parking district.

The neighborhood group also won an agreement not to use two properties the university recently acquired near the arena for parking and to build an underground parking garage as part of the project. …