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City Council changes course, opts to pave way for the low-density subdivision

Plans for a new housing development seem to be back in play after the Newberg City Council gave preliminary approval to annex the property into the city last week.

The Aug. 7 decision was an abrupt reversal for the council, who had previously voted the opposite way about two months earlier, when the majority cited requirements for high-density housing in what was planned to be a low density, subdivision.GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - The Newberg City Council last week gave preliminary approval of a large subdivision called Dutchman Ridge at the corner of Chehalem Drive and North Valley Road.

Like others in the majority, Councilor Mike Corey said the city had brought up the high-density rule at the last minute and it was unfair to throw off the developer's plans.

"If you find out in the bill and … you've already got a plan made and now the plan changes, that's a very incorrect way to create a development in Newberg …" he said. "It's too late to throw (high density) in there and by code, in addition to that, we don't have commercial development close enough, by definition in the code. So it doesn't fit this particular annexation and development."

The council voted 5-1 Aug. 7 to instruct staff to write findings that would support approval of the annexation, a key hurdle in order for developer Del Boca Vista to get the planned subdivision moving.

That decision was exactly the opposite from the 5-1 vote on May 15 instructing staff to write a finding to deny the annexation, though Corey was absent from that meeting and Hayley Delle had not yet vacated her seat.

While a host of other issues have been debated at council – and planning commission – meetings this year, the core issue has been whether the development should include high density or affordable housing.

Del Boca Vista seeks to annex three properties totaling about 26 acres into the northwest corner of the city. The annexation of the Dutchman Ridge properties would pave the way for plans to develop the land – near the intersection of North Valley Road and Chehalem Drive – into 107 home lots.

Del Boca Vista is also developing a 10-acre, 53-lot subdivision that has been given preliminary city approval. Referred to as Gracie's Landing, the land sits immediately west of the Dutchman Ridge properties.

The council parted with the recommendations of city staff and the planning commission in May and voted to deny the Dutchman Ridge application in a 5-1 vote, with some of councilors citing a need to include high-density housing. City staff said at the time high-density housing would require the developer to conduct additional studies and may be an expensive and time consuming process.

Some councilors and residents had insisted that the council must require Del Boca Vista to adhere to a piece of the city code that requires "large" annexations to include "some" high density housing.

However, those terms have not yet been defined and Del Boca Vista staff have contended that this requirement was thrown at them in the last minute.

In addition to debate over the meaning of "large," Del Boca Vista staff continued to argue that nearby public resources do not support high-density housing.

Meanwhile opponents – including Sid Friedman, president of Friends of Yamhill County, and Rick Rogers, director of the Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity, called on the council to stay the course and deny the annexation in its current form.

While Stephen McKinney was the sole council vote supporting the annexation in May, Denise Bacon found herself the only remaining detractor in August, arguing that essentially setting large at 40 acres – the recommendation of staff and the planning commission – would be rare and would do little to address the city's shortage of both high-density and affordable housing.

"If we start looking at 'large' being 40 (acres), that's not going to happen a whole lot of times, so it's like creating a rule for something that's never going to happen, or may only happen one or two times in the rest of my lifetime," she said.

City planning staff are drafting findings to support the council's decision to approve the annexation, and those findings and final decision are expected to come back before the council for approval Sept. 5.

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