Currently the District is working through the conditional use process as required by Multnomah County. Judging from some of the questions I have received and worries I have responded to I can tell there is a need to get some good quality information out for people to digest. I welcome the chance to share this information and am certainly open to answering questions that I might leave out of this Q and A. Please feel free to give me a call or drop a line if I leave any questions unanswered.
What is conditional use?
- I am not a land use planner, and I certainly do not work for the County, so I am sure this answer will lack the depth an expert in the topic could provide so please forgive my layman’s definition.
- Conditional use is process required by Multnomah County to establish what type of use a building is approved for as well as the level of use for that building.
What are some examples of conditional use?
- Buildings can be approved for all kinds of conditional use, retail, public assembly, schools, etc.
- Within each designation the level or capacity of conditional use needs to be established. For instance the Rose Garden has a higher capacity for public assembly than does the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Why is Corbett School District going through the conditional use process?
- The District is currently working through the conditional use process because of two reasons:
- First, concerns were raised by community members with Multnomah County regarding our permitted use; this prompted the District to begin the conditional use process.
- Second, and MOST IMPORTANTLY I want to make sure the District is in compliance with all requirements. I view the concerns as an opportunity to address a need.
What was the nature of the complaints?
- The concerns filed with the County had two main components.
- First, that the District did not have the conditional use to sponsor a charter school.
- Second, that the District did not have a conditional use for the number of students on the main campus.
Does the District have conditional use to operate a charter school?
- Yes. The buildings on the main campus are approved for use as a school. The designation of that school as one K-12 school, a grade school , middle school, high school, charter school, or any combination have little bearing on this portion of the conditional use process. To put a finer point on the topic within one week Corbett School District could establish a dozen schools with the Oregon Department of Education. This would not change the use of the facility. Whether we call it a K-12 school, a K-12 School and a K-12 Charter School, or a grade school, middle school and high school the point is we are using the facility as a school. The type of use is not in question.
Does the District have conditional use for the number of students on the main campus?
- No. There are two reasons that this is the case.
- First, the older buildings on campus were in existence before the conditional use process was invented. They are “grandfathered” in with whatever level of use they had back in the mid 80’s. I was in high school back in the mid 80’s and I imagine that whatever paperwork there was regarding the level of use at that point in time got swallowed up in the big hair of the time. The County does not have any data from the mid 80’s, neither does the Oregon Department of Education, the Multnomah County ESD, or the School District. This should not be a surprise as school districts are not required to keep average daily membership records more than seven years at the absolute longest.
- Second, when the grade school was built a conditional use permit was filed that was not even close to the capacity of the building. I do not know why this was the case. Perhaps it was a cost savings decision because in general the larger the use number the more expensive the process, perhaps it was an oversight or perhaps it was inconceivable to the administration at that time that Corbett would become a destination district and the resident population could grow to more than what it was at the time.
Are there plans to increase the size of the district?
- No, there are no plans to increase the size of the district.
Why does the narrative turned into Multnomah County indicate a capacity for the main campus of 1890?
- The narrative provided to Multnomah County was a starting place to begin the conditional use process. The District is completing this process with the help of a professional land use advisor as well as an architectural firm. In short their professional advice is that conditional use limits should be set at the capacity of the buildings.
Does the district plan on expanding the population to 1800 students?
- No. The district has no plans to expand the population of students. The narrative details several times that these numbers are meant for building capacity issues only and do not reflect any plans on expanding the district.
Why would you want to set a conditional use number higher if you had no intention of expanding the student population?
- Expert’s advise indicates that it is customary to set the conditional use limit at the capacity of the building because there are no crystal balls and it is difficult to predict what level of use a building may experience in the future. Imagine the following example:
- A school district has three buildings each building has the capacity to hold 600 students but their conditional use limit is set at 300 students per building because based upon current occupancy they only have 250 students per building. Time goes by and sadly a fire burns one of the buildings to the ground. The district is now left with the capacity to house all of their students in the two remaining buildings BUT they do not have the proper conditional use. Now imagine that the district is inside a National Scenic Area and that the conditional use process can be long and cumbersome. The mythical district is in a tight spot because to change their conditional use levels will require time that they do not have; kids are waiting to go to school.
Is 1890 likely to be the final number filed on the final conditional use permit?
- Probably not! In my estimation 1890 was a top end starting point number. It is likely that the number will be set lower by the time the process is over. While working through the process a number will be determined that allows the district to function at current levels while maintaining enough flexibility for the district to respond to unforeseen issues that can impact building use.