At the cross streets of 8th and Bolton Hill is the unfinished development of Applegate Landing. From the main road the neighborhood appears like any other, lines of houses and cars parked in driveways outside. But further in, sidewalks lead to nowhere, and side-streets have barriers that stop at an overgrown field.
It is unsure at this time when development will resume to complete the neighborhood because on November 16, 2017 Hayden Homes withdrew from the Applegate Landing project. After 12 years of development in Veneta, the housing company has pulled out due to financial reasons and has sold the property to another developer, according to the City of Veneta.
“(Hayden Homes) is a business. All businesses make decisions based on if it’s practical to sell that product or offer that service,” Ric Ingham, City Administrator, said. “I think sincerely they made a financial decision. It was not as financially advantageous for them to continue.
“We think they could have been more forthcoming about their decision-making process; we don’t think that was handled in the appropriate way. I’m not sure if the City, even if they had engaged, could do enough to mitigate what they saw was extra cost.”
Ingham said the City of Veneta looks forward to more information and he confirmed there was a new owner of the property.
Katy Wooderson, PR and Oregon marketing manager for Hayden Homes, said in an email that permits and requirements have made building houses in Veneta more expensive.
“We strive to provide value driven, high quality homes for hard working families in the cities in which we build,” Wooderson said. “Over the past 10 years, it has become increasingly more expensive to build a home and provide affordable housing in the City of Veneta due to Entitlement and Development Requirements and the City SDC/Building Permit Fees. For this reason, we have decided to invest and build in other Lane and Linn County cities.”
Applegate Landing was projected to provide 577 to 629 homes, depending on the dwelling mix, according to the Veneta Southwest Area Specific Plan (SWAP). There were eight phases to the project and seven acres of parkland were to be dedicated to the City in phase seven. Hayden Homes proposed an alternative park plan, which would have resulted in a 4.5-acre park and two linear park corridors. Hayden Homes also disagreed over replacing disrupted trees from the construction.
The Veneta Planning Commission denied the alternative plan, and Hayden Homes appealed the decision to the City Council, which held an appeal hearing on Feb. 27, 2017. While the council did concur with Hayden’s position on tree mitigation, the appeal for the alternative park was denied.
Little contact was made between the City of Veneta and Hayden Homes before the company withdrew.
Although the City met with legal counsel, it was determined that the city had no point of recourse, Ingham said.
“The only agreement that has been signed is the SWAP from 2006. It was modified twice, but the overall framework hasn’t changed,” he said. “When it comes to Hayden meeting obligations, the only requirement of that juncture was to dedicate park land before continuing with Phase 7. It’s not a legally binding agreement, it’s a land use agreement called the Specific Development Plan.”
At this point, there isn’t anything for the City to do.
“If anything there’s disappointment in the City’s eyes,” Ingham said. “There’s a shortage of houses. So, to not have available housing is disappointing. School enrollment isn’t back up to where it was in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Ingham also said that the city has already invested in the water and sewer lines that were based on the SWAP.
For Applegate Landing resident Thomas Falconer, the effects of the unfinished neighborhood are a reality.
“All the kids in this whole area have nothing to do and a lot of (the residents) are young families. (Hayden Homes) doesn’t want us to have basketball hoops, so there’s nothing for them to do in this neighborhood except run around people’s yards,” he said.
Falconer and his family moved into Applegate Landing in July, 2016.
“Honestly, as far as happy here, this isn’t what we paid for,” he said. “The rest of the package didn’t come with. I feel like — and a lot of people feel like — what they got wasn’t what was promised by Hayden.”
Falconer heard rumors over the summer from three Hayden Homes employees that the company was leaving. Texts between one employee and Falconer show that consideration was happening as early as August.
Falconer brought these concerns to a city hall meeting on September, 25, 2017. According to the minutes, Kay Bork, Community Development Director, said she hadn’t heard anything about Hayden Homes’ planning to withdraw, and the company still had six to eight months to submit the final plat.
“I brought (the rumor) to the city so they could be proactive,” Falconer said. “Maybe there could be a better outcome and they could do something if this was true. From my understanding from Ric, (the city) tried contacting and Hayden wasn’t getting back to them.”
The Home Owners Association could not be reached for comment and the Fern Ridge Review was turned away from a recent HOA meeting. Falconer, who was at the meeting, said cameras and recordings were not allowed.
“They said there is a new builder coming in and they will be building a park at phase 7,” Falconer said. “But there was no more information about them.”
Despite the Hayden Homes withdrawal, this new developer owning the land could potentially result in further development of the Applegate landing neighborhood. Falconer said he hopes that’s the case.
“I hope that the roads get finished, there’s stuff for kids to do, and things for the community that was promised when we bought the house,” he said. “We were told that it was going to be a great community with a lot of stuff, like walking trails and a park. It would be family-oriented. There were good selling points that I was told, and now that has actually changed — unless the new buyer goes by the task plans.”