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Planning commission hearings on the matter are scheduled to take place in May

The frustration was palpable last summer when the West Linn Economic Development Committee, City Council and planning commission discussed the "mixed use transitional zone" that occupies pockets of the city's Willamette business district along Willamette Falls Drive.

EDC members felt the zoning was arcane and far too restrictive, ultimately hindering viable business and development opportunities in an area where they should have bloomed.

City representatives took those critiques to heart, and in November 2017 a work group was formed to evaluate the Willamette mixed use zone and make recommendations to the planning commission and City Council. At a work session Monday, April 2, West Linn Associate Planner Darren Wyss presented a summary of the group's work to the council in advance of formal legislative hearings that will begin in May.

"The group was appointed with two purposes," Wyss said. "One was to review and update, as necessary, the list of permitted and conditional uses in the mixed use transitional zone. The second was to consider the definition of 'mixed use.' Both of those purposes were intended to meet the goal of facilitating compatible mixed use commercial and residential uses while supporting community and economic goals."

Wyss said over the course of four meetings in 2018, the working group met those two goals.

"They also made some recommendations for future consideration," Wyss said. "They think the council should consider evaluating future zone changes on 8th Avenue, (as well as) future zone changes for about seven properties outlying away from the commercial zone and really separated (that) don't fit the transitional purpose of the zone."

Another suggestion from the group was to consider changes to design standards in the mixed use zone "to allow more flexibility for redevelopment of properties." Finally, and not surprisingly, the group felt that parking management should be reevaluated in the business district.

Mayor Russ Axelrod asked if the group had a specific recommendation for how to change the zoning on 8th Avenue, which is currently a blend of mixed use and residential. That street is of particular concern to the new Willamette Ale & Cider House, which hopes to add seating to a segment of property on 8th if it is rezoned for commercial use.

Wyss said the group opted not to make a specific recommendation, as their instructions were only to evaluate the list of permitted uses and the definition of 'mixed use.'

"They just didn't think 8th made sense the way it's zoned, so the council should look at it," Wyss said.

Planning commission hearings on the matter are scheduled to take place in May. The council would then receive a recommendation from the planning commission in June and make a final decision in July.

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