Proposed annexation in Oregon City is dangerous, short-sighted
Like the proverbial "bad penny," it's back. Like the sales tax that the state of Oregon still keeps talking about bringing back to us for yet another vote, it's back. The Park Place Concept Plan Annexation is back.
Except this time, Oregon City residents don't get a vote in the process. Even though it's in our city charter that citizens shall have a vote on all annexations, Gov. Kate Brown, coerced by high paid lobbyists, signed a bill two springs ago that allows developers to annex into a city if their property is contiguous to a city boundary — so much for Brown's "transparency" in government.
Several cities, including Corvallis, sued the state on the basis that it is in their city charters to allow voting on all annexations. It is also in Oregon City's Charter but our city did not join in that lawsuit. That decision is still working its way through the courts.
But what does this mean? Three times developers have tried to bring this property into Oregon City, and three times (2008, 2010, 2011) by overwhelming margins, informed citizens voted it down. They've tried all sorts of arguments and smaller portions of the annexation, hoping that they could get it piecemeal into the city, guising it under all sorts of reasoning.
Before the Planning Commission 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at City Hall, the next annexation attempt is for 92 acres for 400-450 homes, just off Holcomb Boulevard. The full buildout of the Park Place Concept Plan calls for 1,400 homes. This annexation involves the beginning of the proposed Holly Lane extension that will eventually link Holcomb Boulevard to Redland Road. The cost of the road is estimated by city staff at $18.6 million at full extension, and will dump all the traffic from all the Holcomb Boulevard current developments, plus the 1,400-plus residents of the Concept Plan area onto Redland Road where it is eventually planned to connect to an already congested and crudely laid-out Holly Lane.
Until such time that the new road can be built out, the current proposed 92-acre annexation (future development) will surround the Trailview Heights and other existing neighborhoods with numerous residents who will only have one entrance and exit out of the area, known as Winston Drive. All the stub roads (Journey Drive, Shartner Drive and Cattle Drive) will be open to provide access to this new development, but there are no other alternative roads for the new traffic to move except for Winston Drive. Currently there are approximately 93 homes that need to enter/exit on this one short drive.
This mirrors the last annexation attempt and was in large part, its undoing. It would mean that all large construction trucks for the entire area would have to come through Winston Drive, endangering the residents' children who travel to and from school in the area, and play in the streets. The project would tear up existing blacktop roads. When completed, all that new residential traffic will, again, have only one route to enter or exit the large development, causing big concerns for fire and ambulance safety.
Until the full $18.6 million road can be completely built, this proposed annexation means that all new construction will add to current development of an estimated 727 homes along Holcomb, adding to traffic jams at the bend near Holcomb Middle School, as well as at the base of the hill at Redland Road. Holcomb Boulevard cannot be widened, because older, existing homes, some several decades old, are built close to the existing road. Homes would have to be closed and purchased in order to widen the road. And even then, there are culverts and cliffs near the canyons off Holcomb. The increased traffic becomes a bottleneck nightmare for existing residential, but increases the already well-known traffic jam at Holcomb, Abernethy and Redland Road.
At the most recent Planning Commission meeting Jan. 22, Public Works Director John Lewis informed an overflow crowd that the state has no intentions of improving Redland Road at Highway 213, through 2035. Adding this much traffic from more annexations on Holcomb, will only increase the traffic jam and safety on Redland, from Holcomb to 213. There are no plans to even widen or reshape Redland at this juncture. The costs are prohibitive.
Adding to this confusing mess is the fact that on the developer's application plan, they are asking the city to pick up $715,000 to expand the water main along the lower extension of this new road. And those are only current costs that could easily rise as construction costs increase in coming years. Why should residents have to pick up infrastructure costs in order that the developers and landowners can reap large profits from this unnecessary annexation and development?
Developers have tried just about every trick in the book to get this area annexed. On three separate occasions, it was offered to me that I would keep quiet and support these annexations, and previous owners would purchase my current home and move me. More recently there are three existing homes on Holcomb that would become an island surrounded by Oregon City annexed properties. Those residents were offered $5,000 checks, by a developer/landowner if they would not fight the process and simply acquiesce to being forced into the city limits. The checks were not accepted.
There is so much more to this story including schools, livability and more, but the written explanation could take up several pages of our newspaper. Park Place Neighborhood Association is planning a full testimony at the Feb. 12 Planning Commission meeting.
Communities further south on Redland from Holly Lane, Redland Road and further out have not been mailed postcards to inform them of this future development. It's dependent on all those reading this article to keep their neighbors informed. Most information can be followed at orcity.org.
If you wish to provide testimony regarding this fourth attempt to shove this development down current residents' throats, come to the Feb. 12 Planning Commission meeting. Each citizen has three minutes to address the Planning Commission at City Hall, 625 Center St.
Tom Geil is a resident of the Park Place neighborhood in Oregon City.