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Changes aim to 'modernize and strengthen' development codes and acknowledge Robinwood Station as community center

A series of long-discussed Community Development Code (CDC) changes were approved unanimously at the West Linn City Council meeting Oct. 9, thus restoring, and in some ways strengthening, CDC language removed in 2014 under a different council.

Both the council and staff have been working throughout the year to, as Community Development Director John Williams put it at a Sept. 18 work session, "modernize and strengthen the CDC." The council was particularly concerned with grading, geotechnical and stormwater standards on the heels of several recent development application processes like the new Sunset Primary School and a subdivision at Upper Midhill Drive, during which councilors felt handcuffed by what the CDC allowed them to require of developers.

Among the major provisions in the new code language is a requirement that there be "no adverse off-site impacts, including increased intensity of runoff downstream" and a rule that any application on a site that has more than half of its area at a grade above 10 percent must include a geotechnical report. The changes also give the City's planning director the authority to call for additional geotechnical or stormwater studies in circumstances where the code doesn't explicitly require them.

In a presentation to the council during the Oct. 9 meeting, Williams provided a brief overview of the proposed changes, while also drawing comparisons to how other cities approach these issues.

"I do think one of the themes throughout other cities is they relied a little more on evidence of past landslides," Williams said. "So landslide mapping, historic mapping tends to be a pretty significant criteria."

But in general, Williams said that "our requirements are roughly equivalent to other jurisdictions."

Having done more extensive workshopping on the code language during the Sept. 18 meeting, the council had few additional thoughts on the matter before voting to approve the codes. Mayor Russ Axelrod, however, offered some minor wordsmithing suggestions that were added just before the final vote.

Specifically, Axelrod suggested that language referring to "constraints due to slope, drainage and geologic hazards" should be amended to "constraints due to site characteristics such as slope, drainage and geologic hazards" so as not to limit consideration to just those three matters.

The council is likely to make other minor changes to the code at a later date during a more generalized code clean-up process that would eliminate typos and other errors.

There were no community comments at the public hearing, leaving the council free to adopt the code changes unanimously.

"You've done a great job of reining it all in," Axelrod said to staff. "I'm happy to see it moving forward."

Robinwood Station acknowledged by code

It's a new era for the Robinwood Station and the Friends of Robinwood Station (FORS), as the council also voted unanimously Oct. 9 to approve a code amendment that officially acknowledges the station as a community building.

FORS has managed the property — a former fire hall owned by the City — since 2010. The station is located in an R-10 single family residential zone, with allowed use as a fire hall and meeting room, and in 2011 West Linn issued a temporary use permit for FORS to use the building as a community center. FORS has continued to operate on a series of temporary use permits since that time, and instead of requiring a permanent conditional use permit (CUP), the council opted to change R-10 zoning language to allow for a community building only at the Robinwood Station address.

"This is a great night tonight to see this finally move forward," Axelrod said. "Here's to a great future for the Robinwood Station — we're looking forward to it."

West Linn Tidings reporter Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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