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New firm aiming for high-density housing near 19th Avenue and D Street

by: NEWS-TIMES GRAPHIC: CHASE ALLGOOD - The new development proposed by Gales Creek Development would sit just south of Pacific Avenue and stretch from D Street to Ritchey Road.A West Linn developer is poised to submit an application to build 250 single-family homes on former farmland at the southwest edge of Forest Grove.

The project includes property just north of the Gales Creek flood plain that was once slated for another development that generated enormous controversy before it was finally approved by city councilors in 2007 and then was scuttled amid the subsequent bust in the housing bubble.

The property is located south of Pacific Avenue’s west end, where it leads to Tom McCall Upper Elementary School. Homes would stretch from D Street all the way to Ritchey Road.

Though the property is bordered by Gales Creek to the south, farmland to the west and long-established, large-lot neighborhoods to the east, it is zoned for high-density residential use — a decision the city made decades ago and currently being reconsidered as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan review.

The developer this time is Gales Creek Development — an LLC owned by Gordon Root, an active developer who has overseen a number of large subdivisions in the region, including Casey Meadows in Forest Grove.

Neither the LLC nor any of its representatives have formally filed an application for this development, so many of the particular details of their plans are not publicly known.

However, neighbors and city employees say the team has met with them to discuss their intentions in general ways and are proposing single-family detatched homes on narrow lots.

Rob Foster, Forest Grove city engineer, noted that all of the discussions have been “pre-application.”

“The development project is quite complicated, so we have had several conversations with the developer about how the application might look,” he said.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions about the design and access, and that’s about it,” said Jon Holan, the city’s community development director. “I’m not aware of what their time frame is. All I can say is that they’re moving forward with it.”

Though the developer’s full plans have not yet been submitted or released, the size and location of the potential project is apparently such that it could have noticeable effects outside its boundaries.

Holan said the developers have suggested changes to the city’s long-term transportation plans — including a redesignation of the incomplete western end of 19th Avenue from a collector to a local-access street.

Holan said the developers have suggested Pacific Avenue — already classified as a collector for the county — be designated a collector for the city as well, in lieu of the western-most portion of 19th.

“The issue is, what is the best circulation system for the community in that area?” he said. “That is the bottom line; that’s how were looking at it anyway.”

Such a change would require adjustments to the city’s comprehensive and transportation plans, the latter of which is currently under review by the planning commission. Holan said that any alterations to the designations of 19th or Pacific avenues are scheduled to be discussed during the panel’s Dec. 16 meeting and then forwarded to the Forest Grove City Council as non-binding recommendations. Any updates to either the transportation or comprehensive plans will be heard during public hearings and subject to council approval.

The last time a development in the Gales Creek area was under consideration, the application process lasted several years. The then-developers’ plans for 120-plus units (later reduced to 87) drew the ire of adjoining property owners and other residents who were afraid that the high-density subdivision would be incompatible with adjacent uses (primarily, low-density residential neighborhoods) and that the area was unsuitable for housing due to its grade and proximity to Gales Creek.

“We have ruined one of Forest Grove’s best opportunities to protect Gales Creek,” one of the neighbors, Doug Thompson, said during a hearing in 2007 after the area’s rezoning to high-density residential had been approved. “Even the planning commission said it’s disappointed in this development.”

Efforts to get more details from the current developers were unsuccessful.

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