Forest Grove City Council considering Pacific plan update
The City of Forest Grove is poised to approve the first major update to the master plan for the Pacific University campus since it was adopted 12 years ago — but the process has generated little public attention, City Planner James Reitz said at a meeting Monday evening, April 23.
Briefing the Forest Grove City Council on the highlights of the university's plan update, Reitz noted that city officials have heard complaints from community members upset about the availability of parking downtown and around the campus.
"We have perennially heard — and I know all of you have been buttonholed at one time or another in the market or on the street, with someone commenting on, if not ranting about, parking. If it's not campus parking, it's downtown parking," Reitz said. "There's a perception of parking supply being less than parking demand."
But despite that, Reitz said, the Forest Grove Planning Commission only heard from four members of the public on the parking issue last fall — and Monday evening, the City Council heard from none.
As part of the plan update, Pacific University commissioned a parking assessment, which Reitz suggested backs up the paucity of public interest.
"The professional analysis is that our parking supply, overall, is pretty good," Reitz said, noting that a very tentative projection for demand in 2030 shows that supply — even without new parking facilities being built — would still outstrip demand.
The updated plan would commit Pacific to provide the City of Forest Grove with annual updates on the parking situation, as well as student enrollment, housing and traffic management.
Enrollment is expected to rise between now and 2030, Reitz noted, but the most significant change is that as Pacific migrates graduate programs to its buildings in Hillsboro, the university expects to have a much more undergraduate-dominated campus in Forest Grove. Although university officials are looking at demolishing aging Clark Hall to the north of the Washburne University Center — an idea that has been discussed for years, with no timetable in place — they are also eyeing plans to build more student residences and on-campus parking areas.
"The student population is evolving and changing and their habits are different, and we have to adapt to that," said Lesley Hallick, Pacific University's president, speaking in favor of the update during the public hearing that followed Reitz's presentation.
The plan update would cap off-street parking at the university at just under 1,100 spaces. Hallick said she would like to see the city reconsider that.
"It's that very attempt to … increase the parking capacity off-street that's being limited here," Hallick said. "We hadn't done that until recently, and now we've been investing in that in order to take the pressure off the neighbors and off the merchants … and this will limit our ability to do that."
Another item of discussion Monday night was whether to include an area north of University Avenue and east of Sunset Drive labeled "Opportunity Site F" in the plan. Though planning commissioners declined to remove Site F from the planning area, Reitz said staff suggested it be cut, keeping the planning area as tight as possible and reducing the possibility for impacts to the residential area.
In response to a request by City Councilor Malynda Wenzl, City Manager Jesse VanderZanden said staff will prepare an amendment for the council to consider that would remove parts of Site F from the scope of planning.
Although no one showed up Monday evening at the Forest Grove Community Auditorium to speak in opposition to the draft master plan update, Mayor Pete Truax said the public hearing will be carried over to the council's next scheduled meeting Monday, May 14. The council could vote to approve the plan at that time.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the master plan was first developed by Pacific University and approved by the Forest Grove City Council in 2006.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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