Developer not required to build frontage improvements at time of development

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - People gathered at the Molalla Adult Community Center on Dec. 7 for the monthly Planning Commission meeting.

After several months of deliberation, the Molalla Planning Commission voted unanimously Dec. 7 to approve the development of the Shirley Bank Subdivision.

The plans for the subdivision include seven single-family homes off Shirley Street near Highway 211 in northeast Molalla.

City officials and local citizens gathered last Wednesday at the Molalla Adult Community Center to discuss the approval of the subdivision. Last month, the Planning Commission approved a waiver of remonstrance that dedicated the land for frontage improvements – sidewalks, curbs, gutters, street widening – at a future date.

The waiver came after Stafford Development submitted a modification request to not be required to build those frontage improvements at the time of development. Morgan Will, a representative from Stafford, said at the Dec. 7 meeting that the request was submitted because of the feedback they received from residents near the proposed development.

Will addressed the crowd during the meeting and said that the frontage improvements should not be made at the time of development. After his comments, he gave additional remarks outside of the meeting.

“There’s a lot on the corner of Shirley Street and the highway that’s already in existence, and it’s not improved, and so then further out towards the edge of town is where our property begins,” Will said. “This would be a 250-foot length of widened road and sidewalk with both ends connecting to nothing.”

Will then said the details about the construction of those improvements along the highway don’t make much sense.

“Because it’s such a short length, the road is supposed to have a center turn lane, but the vehicles driving out of town, that half of the street, is getting no improvement,” Will said. “So that lane is not moving, and the only lane that would shift would be the lane coming into town, but it’s not appropriate to shift over for 250 feet and then shift right back again when you get to that lot that’s on the corner, blocking the continuous flow of traffic,” he said.

“There would not be an actual turn lane inserted because for the center turn lane you need the full width, and we’re only doing half the width, so there would only be six feet of turn lane instead of 12,” Will said. “The traffic heading out of town, the current center line of the pavement would stay, and the inbound traffic, if it was to move over and use the appropriate lane and give up those six feet, it would move over and come back so quick that it would be dangerous, abnormal, confusing, and that six feet of pavement would be a waste because you can’t use it.”

Will then said that if the improvements were to be made, the double yellow center line will stay the same, both travel lanes stay the same, and an extra space is paved that “just sits there in a holding pattern waiting for the rest of the road to be built.”

“It collects leaves, moss, dirt, and debris, and usually that asphalt just corrodes and goes bad since it’s not actually used,” Will said. “So we looked at it as a not smart thing for safety because of the transportation swerving, a waste of resources, building a road that’s not going to be used … for no future development of that side of the street,” he said.

In terms of resource allocation as Will mentioned, he commented that Stafford’s decision to put in a modification request stemmed from input from local residents and was not an attempt by Stafford to try and save some money on the development.

“We only proposed that (modification request) because we were listening to the neighbors, just like the Planning Commission did; both us and the Planning Commission are listening to the neighbors and proposing a solution, and then that solution was to not require it to be built; adding the layer of the remonstrance agreement as part of the condition was city staff instruction the Planning Commission on how to do it,” Will said.

Heather Phillips lives on Coho Street and came to the December Planning Commission meeting to advocate against a pathway to Highway 211 from the neighborhood. The only current way into the neighborhood is from Shirley Street.

“Our neighborhood definitely does not want a walkway coming through that highway,” she said as she addressed the Planning Commission during the comments portion of the meeting. “There have been many problems at the top of the street with the vagrants with break-ins and thefts and things like that.”

“None of us inside the neighborhood really have that problem, so it comes down to opportunity; if there’s an easy way in and an easy way out, that’s the kind of thing we’re going to be looking at. None of us want that, and we wouldn’t have bought houses there if that would’ve been something that was there in the beginning.”

But Phillips said her only worry was the potential construction of that pathway to the highway. After she spoke to the group, she said she would have been fine with the sidewalks and other frontage improvements.

“I didn’t mind the sidewalks, I think they should be supporting the improvement, but I was more concerned about the pathway coming into our neighborhood from the highway,” she said. “My issue wasn’t about the sidewalks, I think that was something the builder kind of tacked in there.”

Phillips then commented on the costs that future Shirley Bank subdivision homeowners will incur if and when those frontage improvements are made.

“I think that’s crazy; I would avoid a house if I found out that I was going to have to pay for a sidewalk someday,” she said. “I definitely don’t think that’s the best situation, but I felt like they tacked theirs onto ours; we just didn’t want the pathway, we didn’t care about the sidewalks, and I think the builder probably took the opportunity of our complaint and then tacked their own thing in.”

The decision to approve the subdivision with the developer’s modification request came despite a Nov. 16 letter from Oregon Department of Transportation Regional Planner Seth Brumley to the Molalla Planning Commission that said “the City has an obligation to require frontage improvements at the time of development.”

Molalla City Manager Dan Huff then said ODOT does not have the authority to require the Planning Commission to make that decision.

“ODOT is a coordinating agency; they’re not someone that can require somebody else to do something, they can require the applicant to do something,” Huff said. “So for example, if we had a city street and on one side of the road is city of Molalla and the other side of the road is Clackamas County and the county was approving the development to our road, they would have to fully comply with everything we wanted.”

“For Shirley Bank, I could make the argument that they’re not impacting the highway at all since there’s no access to it,” Huff said. “The Planning Commission has the authority to make development decisions in the city of Molalla. However, what we want to do is create a situation where the city of Molalla and ODOT are working in conjunction with each other.”

John Makler, ODOT Region 1 Planning Manager, confirmed Huff’s comments in a phone conversation on Dec. 12.

“We, as an agency, work with communities around the state to achieve the goals they share, which include safe and efficient transportation decisions,” Makler said. “We make recommendations for cases that we feel best represent the planning goals that are articulated by the system plans themselves, but it’s ultimately the city’s decision.”

Makler then said that ODOT can appeal the Planning Commission’s decision on the Shirley Bank subdivision, but that they are “watching and listening right now” and they don’t know yet if there will be an appeal.

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