Planning — Neighbors concerned about safety and density issues related to proposed 44-lot residential neighborhood on Terrace Drive

A proposed 44-lot subdivision off Terrace Drive in the northern part of the city faced staunch opposition from neighboring property owners during a meeting of the Newberg Planning Commission last week, ultimately leading to the hearing being continued until September.

The property in question, which the city’s staff report lists as 7.9 acres, is zoned for light residential use and owned by the estate of Minda Hutchinson. Heading up the project, dubbed Terra Estates, is a company called Del Boca Vista LLC, represented by local developer Mike Hanks and realtor Marc Willcuts. Willcuts was the first to speak in favor of the project during the Aug. 8 hearing.

“I feel like the project meets the criteria that the city has laid out for the site,” he said. “The property had been on the market for quite a while and the seller based their value and we based our value on the current zoning and criteria to develop it to its highest and best use.”

Willcuts noted that the developers have met with neighboring property owners and altered their plans to assuage concerns that were expressed. That move was echoed and applauded by Realtor Mike Cook, who represents the unfinished Terrace Heights development directly south of Terra Estates.

“I think we should be thankful that local developers are involved,” he said. “Outside developers would not care. They would build whatever was allowed by the city and met the code and requirements. The local guys here have listened; they’ve acquiesced. They’ve decided to try and work with the neighborhood, and I’m pleased with what they’ve decided to do.”

Cook said the project developers agreed to increase the size of the planned homes and double their garage size — thus altering their target buyers — in an effort to defuse neighbors’ concerns that the subdivision of mostly entry-level homes would be incongruous.

“To me, that worked well, about as well as we could hope for, to protect Terrace Heights and Natalie (Drive) and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Cook said.

His enthusiasm, however, didn’t appear to be shared by many of the residents in those neighborhoods who lined up to speak in opposition to the project. Summarizing the residents’ primary concerns was Mark Darula, a resident on Natalie Drive. Darula said he and many other residents opposed to the current plans believe the proposed lots are too small for light residential zoning.

Though all of the proposed lots are well above the R-1 minimum size of 5,000 square feet, the surrounding neighborhoods were built with lots that are 7,500 square feet or larger — which was the light residential standard before it was lowered by a vote of the City Council in October 2010. Darula called the 44-lot proposal a “fly in the ointment” of Newberg’s light residential zones

“It’s obvious,” he said. “It doesn’t show any continuity to the existing neighborhood.”

Residents also aired concerns of increased traffic and safety issues (there are currently no traffic safety devices on Natalie, Hilltop or Hillsdale roads), lowered property values, the lack of parks and public recreation in the area to serve existing residents and the impact the new subdivision could have on the Newberg School District.

“Where is the due diligence by (Planning and Building) Director Barton (Brierley) and the school district? Where is it? It doesn’t exist,” Darula alleged. “I don’t know who to escalate this to, but we’re not happy. We don’t feel like we’re being represented.”

Chris Strange, a resident of Morris Street — which is planned to be extended into the new subdivision — expressed similar sentiments.

“My criteria that I want us to stand behind is that this development is not a safe and healthful development adjoining the land and access thereto,” he said. “I look at that and say, does this match? Is it healthful to our neighborhood to do this to us? Is it healthful to force this and say, ‘Here it is, deal with it’?”

Commissioners ultimately voted unanimously to continue the hearing at the point of staff recommendation on Sept. 12. At that meeting, no further testimony will be taken. However, the written record will remain open until 4:30 p.m. Thursday, with additional time provided for involved parties to respond,

In the meantime, planning commissioners directed city staff to request a full response from the school district regarding the proposal and ask the Traffic Safety Commission to work with area property owners in addressing their street safety concerns.

“I do think a number of the traffic safety issues that have been brought up do need to be addressed and somehow resolved before I would feel comfortable making a vote on it one way or another,” Vice Chairman Art Smith said.

They also requested clarification on several potential discrepancies highlighted by neighbors regarding the city codebook and the information submitted by the developers.

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