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Little debate on residential development that stirred passions throughout summer

The Newberg City Council approved a request last week to annex about 25 acres of land on the north side of town destined to become a subdivision called Dutchman Ridge after months of public debate.

While the council's decision Sept. 6 was unanimous, it stood in sharp contrast to the hours of heated debate the subdivision has drawn at numerous meetings between the developers and affordable housing advocates, as well as amongst councilors themselves. GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Work began last summer on two housing developments near the corner of North Valley Road and Chehalem Drive.

"I will be favoring this one," Mayor Bob Andrews said at the meeting. "I'm glad that we finally walked through it and got a decent product out of it."

Andrews was the only councilor to express an opinion as the council spent barely five minutes on the issue before a handful of observers, which was markedly dissimilar from the hours of public testimony and debate previously held on the annexation.

The vote formalized the decision the council had already come to about a month earlier to approve the annexation, adopting staff-written and planning commission-approved findings to support the annexation.

With the vote, Newberg-based and Willcuts-owned developer Del Boca Vista can annex about 25.66 acres of land into the city near North Valley Road and Chehalem Drive and move ahead on plans for a low-density residential development planned to be about 107 lots.

The same company is also developing a 10-acre, 53-lot subdivision between the intersection and Dutchman Ridge called Gracie's Landing.

The annexation request for Dutchman Ridge has been working its way through the city for most of this year, including as the planning commission wrestled with a city requirement that "large" annexations include some area zoned as high density, a requirement that was not applied to Dutchman Ridge.

While the commission approved the annexation anyway because the terms weren't defined in city code, the council denied the application 5-1 when it came to them in May on the grounds that it should be considered large and therefore include high-density housing.

In August, a majority of the council flipped sides and voted 5-1 to approve the annexation, finding it unfair to hold the developers to a rule that hadn't been there from the beginning.

The sole holdout in the Aug. 7 vote, Denise Bacon, ended up joining the majority last week, noting that the annexation would have been approved whichever way she voted.

However, she expressed concern about the decision setting 40 acres as "large" — making 40-acre developments the threshold that would require high-density housing — and said she will work to scale that down to a lower number.

"There was no point in me voting no because I've already lost it ... but I am going to fight that that 40 is changed," Bacon said.

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