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Straub family opposes growth plan for Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) — An effort to expand the city of Springfield's urban growth boundary has hit a big snag.

The Straub family, the largest landowner within the proposed expansion area, has switched its position from neutral to against.

In an email to a city planner, Jim Straub said expanding the boundary and changing the zoning to industrial will irrevocably change the character of the land, and the family wants to see it preserved for future generations. His grandfather, former Oregon Gov. Robert Straub, bought the land in the 1950s and his parents still live on it.

In an interview with The Register-Guard (http://is.gd/SiM2sf ), Straub said another problem is he'd get less money selling the land zoned for industrial use than for farm use. That's because it could be at least a decade before the city and developers could extend the roads and utilities needed to develop the land if it were brought into the urban growth boundary.

"It felt like changing the zoning almost was putting handcuffs on it a little bit," he told the newspaper.

The news complicates the city's consideration of the proposed expansion area to accommodate business and industrial development. Residents who live nearby started a campaign against the expansion, saying they feared industrial development would pave over farmland while causing air and water pollution.

Opposition from a major landholder adds muscle to the critics. Charles Stewart, who owns an organic farm near the proposed expansion area, said the announcement from the Straub family delivers a crippling blow, and he urged the city to drop the proposal.

Mayor Christine Lundberg said the city would honor the Straub family's request to exclude its land, but also that she's "not keen on dismissing the area until we've had thorough discussions with open minds." She said the area would still be viable for growth even without the largest landowner.

"We just need to sit down, take a deep breath, talk about the pros and cons about why that area was included. Have some rational and reasonable discussion about it," Lundberg said.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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