Benedick Annexation in Florence: A Very Bad Idea

Benedick Holdings Annexation Proposal. Courtesy City of Florence.

Benedick Holdings LLC wants to annex a 49-acre property into the city of Florence, for the ultimate purpose of building a large single-family subdivision on the property, like those that surround it on two sides.

The annexation is intensely controversial, opposed by all surrounding and nearby residents as well as Oregon Coast Alliance, for a host of reasons. Among the most obvious have to do with Florence’s annexation policy #3, which requires orderly, economic provision for public facilities and services. The stormwater issues with this property are legion, made worse by Benedick’s failure to begin, much less complete, a five-year warranty period for the required developer-managed stormwater system in his nearby subdivisions. In other words, the developer’s trustworthiness is low. But nevertheless, Florence officials seem prepared to blithely annex the property, simply stating that upon annexation the property will be required to meet city code.

Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozevich wrote an unusual, cautionary letter to the city suggesting they require an engineering study certifying that downstream systems can accommodate the added stormwater discharge of a new subdivision. City of Florence Public Works echoed these concerns, and voiced additional anxiety about groundwater, noting that flooding causes the groundwater in the area to become so high that surface runoff cannot penetrate into the ground.

Perhaps the most surreal aspect of this proposed annexation is that the Benedick property is largely composed of wetlands and seasonal lakes. Covering them with asphalt and new development will massively exacerbate flooding and stormwater issues in an already-beleaguered area. Additionally, both Florence and Benedick Holdings have ignored the designation of the South Heceta Junction Seasonal Lakes as significant wetlands; they require protection under Florence’s own policies. But the Benedick proposal aims to cite the homes within the seasonal lakes! – providing a massive, and totally avoidable, threat to the public health and safety due to flooding if this annexation takes place.

Finally, transportation and traffic issues are of serious concern to residents and ORCA. Oceana Drive, the “cherry stem” used to create this annexation, is only a local road with no paved shoulders, curbs, gutters or sidewalks. The applicant provided no substantive proposal to improve the road infrastructure on Oceana, or the other nearby local roads that are similarly substandard. This is not orderly provision of roads as the city’s annexation policy 3 requires.

The annexation proposal is currently before Florence officials for approval or denial. ORCA, along with local residents, is watching very closely, because an approval outcome would have so large an effect on the local ecology, as well as neighborhood health and safety.

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