What is Land Use?

Happy New Year West Salem! The quote “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.” by Michael Altshuler means that time passes quickly, but you have the power to control how you spend it.

WSNA is taking that quote to heart in 2024 in our efforts to keep you informed and involved in decisions that affect our community. One of the ways we hope to do this is by removing some of the mystery of what WSNA does in support of the community, committee by committee, issue by issue.

Over the past few months, you’ve heard from the Parks, Houseless, and Transportation committees and been shown some of the splendid work being done by each. Next on the agenda is one of the most impactful and confusing subjects affecting every neighborhood community: development, or as the city refers to it, Land Use.

What is Land Use and how does it affect West Salem? Loosely stated, Land Use refers to the development of land for commercial, industrial, and/or residential purposes. Within West Salem, this can mean all three of these things. Often times, while we’re going about our lives and not watching or listening closely, things begin to change. A vacant lot that was once used as the neighborhood playground is now under construction and a small apartment complex is being built. And unless you live right next door,  you may not know what’s happening until the jacks begin to pound and the hammers begin to swing, and by then, it’s too late to have a say in anything.

Enter WSNA. The purpose of your Neighborhood Association is to insert itself in this type of project, to listen and understand, to share concerns, and help offer solutions when applicable. Steve Anderson, WSNA’s Land Use Committee Chair, is the person behind this important, but often confusing subject. As Land Use Chair, Steve tracks Land Use projects that might have an impact on livability within our West Salem Community. Following a step-by-step process, (developed by the City and City Planners), he monitors Land Use “applications” through each phase of the process to ensure each project meets the codes and requirements set by the city.

WSNA’s Land Use Chair spends a lot of his time dissecting complicated planning documents, reviewing city and state codes, rules, regulations, and laws. He attends City Planning, City Council, and ZOOM meetings in order to understand what’s being said and what happens next. And ultimately, he appears before the City Council and testifies on behalf of the West Salem community when processes and regulations seem to be disregarded or are not being followed.

 In short, WSNA is a watchdog for development in our community. And while it’s not an easy subject to articulate or communicate, it’s something WSNA is dedicated to doing better and more often for you.

The following is an example of a much-simplified Land Use Process Guide for just one of the three types of Land Use processes. It conforms to the process outlined on planning@cityofsalem.net, but it does not represent each variation of the Land Use processes. This will, however, give you an idea of the complexity of these projects.


  1. Land Use Application Submission: Imagine a developer named Homes Construction,  for example, who just purchased an empty lot in your neighborhood. Their desire is to turn it into a small neighborhood of single-family homes. In order to proceed, they have to apply to the city for approval before they can proceed.
  • Review for Completeness: Once Homes Construction submits their application, the city has 30 days to review the application. If the application isn’t complete, the developer, Homes Construction, is notified in writing about what’s missing. They then have 180 days to provide the missing information.
  • Public Notice: Once the application has been accepted, the city mails written notices to property owners who live within 250 feet of the project site, public agencies, and the affected neighborhood association, WSNA. Depending on the project, signs may also be posted on the property site.
  • Public Comment: The public has 14 days from the date the notice is mailed to provide written comments. Comments can come from anyone with an interest in the project, and can be mailed, emailed, or dropped off in person at City Hall. No comments will be accepted after the 14-day period. This is a key step in the process for WS citizens. If you have something to say, this is the time to bring it up.
  • Analysis: At this point, City Staff analyzes the application for specific criteria, and considers all comments received during the public comment period. The decision can be to approve the application, approve it with conditions, or deny the application.
  • Notice of Decision: Written notification of the city’s decision is mailed to the applicant (Homes Construction), WSNA, affected property owners, and anyone one else who submitted written comments.
  • Decision Effective – or – Appeal: The applicant (Homes Construction), WSNA, anyone who provided written comments, and anyone who was mailed notice of the decision can appeal the decision. If there is no appeal, the Notice of Decision becomes effective the day after the 15-day appeal process expires.
  • Notice of Appeal: If there is an appeal, the city will mail a notice of a public hearing to all affected and interested parties and will also post the public hearing notice on the project site.
  • Staff Report: City Staff will prepare a report that includes recommendations to the “appeal body” hearing the case, based on specific criteria in the City’s regulations. The staff report will be available to the public at least seven days before the hearing.
  1. Public Hearing: The “appeal body” will hold the public hearing and anyone can testify or provide written comments at the hearing. The “appeal body” makes a decision after the hearing is closed or continue the hearing to another date. This is another key step for WS citizens to provide comments.
  1. Notice of Appeal Decision: City Staff mails a written order of the decision to the person who made the appeal, the applicant (Homes Construction), affected property owners, WNSA, anyone who testified or provided a written statement, or anyone asking to receive the decision. The decision becomes final on the date the notice is mailed.
  1. Appeal: Any additional appeal will be made to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

There are currently seven “open” Land Use applications in process in West Salem. Three are larger projects involving the construction of multi-family housing and/or apartment sites. WSNA is following each closely and reporting on them regularly. You can find information regarding these projects (city provided reports), and upcoming WSNA updates, on our website at https://westsalemna.com/.

WSNA’s goal is to provide monthly updates on these projects, giving you the information, you need to better understand the Land Use projects going on in our community. We would love to have you join us at our monthly meetings so you can hear Land Use Chair Steve Anderson give up-to-date information on each of these projects.

Upcoming Meeting Information

Meeting Venues

As we mentioned previously, we’re hoping to host a few of our meetings at different locations this year, allowing more neighbors an opportunity to join in. We’re still securing dates, but this is what we have so far:

  • Capital Manor is hosting WSNA’s April meeting! There will be more information coming about this meeting, but please pencil us in for Thursday, April 4th at 6:30, Capital Manor, 1955 Salem Dallas Hwy NW, Salem, OR 97304.
  • Local Park (August)

Guest Speakers

  • February
    • A Representative from the City Transportation Department will be available to discuss the installation of speed bumps on Rogers Lane.
    • Gretchen Bennett from the City of Salem, speaking on our houseless neighbors.
  • March
    • D.J. Vincent from Church at the Park (Microshelter communities).

Next Meeting February 1st, 2024, at 6:30 pm at Roth’s upstairs Community room, accessible by stairs and elevator.