Appeal to seek pedestrian and bicycle connection to OR 211

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - This map depicts the Shirley Bank subdivision, which includes the pedestrian and bicylce pathway connecting to Highway 211 that ODOT is seeking with their appeal of the Molalla Planning Commission's decision to approve the development.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has appealed the Molalla Planning Commission's decision to approve the Shirley Bank Subdivision.

ODOT Region 1 Planning Manager John Makler sent a letter to the Molalla City Council on Dec. 21 that served as an appeal to the decision specifically regarding an item that residents in the area voiced they did not want as part of the new development that would be built near their homes: pedestrian access to Highway 211.

"The intent of this appeal is regarding the Conditions of Approval, specifically Condition #7, which does not require a pedestrian and bicycle connection (i.e. accessway) to OR 211 as stipulated in the City's adopted Transportation System Plan (TSP) and Municipal Code," Makler said in the letter.

ODOT's statement of the basis for appeal cited Molalla's own Municipal Code that includes instructions for access to Highway 211.

"In our previous comment letter, ODOT recommended that the City require pedestrian access from Coho Street to OR 211 consistent with the City Municipal Code and with Planning Commission Findings.

The Chapter 18.16 section of those findings states: 'An accessway for pedestrians and bicycles is proposed to provide (a) multi-modal connection to 211 that doesn't violate any intersection spacing standards. This connection includes a 5 foot sidewalk that shall be lit and landscaped pursuant to City standards,'" the letter from Makley said.

Makley then referenced further text from Molalla's Municipal Code, specifically Section 18.16.030(A)(2), which he said states that pedestrian/bicycle access ways shall be provided in areas where full street connections are not possible.

He also referenced Section 18.04.030(B)(10)(b)(iii) which states: "In residential, commercial and industrial districts accessways shall be included to provide reasonably direct connections from cul-de-sacs to the nearest available street or neighborhood activity center."

"Despite the clear intention within the code to provide pedestrian connectivity, Condition of Approval #7 explicitly instructs the applicant to not make this connection," Makler said.

Makler then noted that the one applicable exception to that requirement is where the access way ends at the Urban Growth Boundary. He said the UGB boundary is different from what was listed in the Planning Commission's Notice of Decision.

"The site plan in the Notice of Decision shows the UGB on the north side of OR 211; however, the actual UGB boundary is on the south side of the highway and only the City Limits boundary is on the north side," Makler said. "The exclusion of an accessway would be in conflict with established City regulations and visions to create a healthy, livable community. As the City continues to grow and develop, ODOT believes that this may create precedence in direct conflict with the community's vision and goal."

Local residents that live near the appealed Shirley Bank subdivision told the developer, Stafford Homes and Land, that they didn't want pedestrian access to Highway 211 for fear of vagrants entering the community and to prevent children from entering the highway.

Heather Phillips lives on Coho Street and spoke to the Pioneer at the Dec. 7 Planning Commission meeting where said she and her neighbors came to a consensus that they did not want that pathway to be built.

"Our entire neighborhood was concerned about the pathway coming into our neighborhood from the highway," she said. "There is no access to our neighborhood except from the top of the streets, so that was our biggest issue."

"We have a lot of vagrants that are going up and down, and the people at the top of our neighborhood along Shirley [Street] have been having a lot of problems with theft and vandalism, there's been some break-ins," Phillips said. "None of us down below have had any kind of problems and we think the reason is because it's kind of an opportunity thing; there's no easy way in or out down there because we're backed up by the field."

Phillips then said that there is a safety component involved in their concerns involving children as well.

"A huge, huge piece would be the kids as well, and strangers coming into the neighborhood," she said.

At the end of Makler's letter, he said there is an alternative that the City may contemplate.

"An alternative that the City may consider is to require the pedestrian/bicycle accessway to be accommodated if and when a project completed frontage improvements on the north side of the highway," Makler said. "In order to accommodate this connections, ODOT recommends that the City either preserve the right of way or create and easement for this connection and place a gate or other temporary obstruction within the proposed wall that can be easily removed when sidewalk and bicycle facilities are constructed."

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