A split council forges ahead with a 112-unit senior apartment complex

In a split decision July 15, the Wilsonville City Council voted to override the city’s existing housing density limitations and build a 112-unit senior apartment complex in the new Brenchley Estates development. by: JOSH KULLA - Holland Partners Group officials say there is pent up demand from seniors living at Jory Trail at the Grove, shown above, for an age-restricted luxury apartment complex. That proposed 112-unit complex, Active Adults at the Grove, received city council approval at a July 15 meeting.

In a 3-2 vote, Mayor Tim Knapp was backed by Councilors Julie Fitzgerald and Susie Stevens in giving the go-ahead for Holland Partners Group to proceed with the planned four-story luxury apartment building. The ordinance grants the company a waiver from density restrictions that were voted into place by the council just last year, which rezoned Brenchley Estates entirely and reduced the number of residential units allowed to 715.

Under the new ordinance, however, that restriction is overturned in favor of allowing 66 additional housing units in total. To reach that figure, up to 29 planned single-family homes will not be built as part of Brenchley Estates, which covers more than 59 acres along Parkway Avenue formerly occupied by the Thunderbird Mobile Club.

The July 15 public hearing held to decide the matter attracted passionate testimony both for and against the Active Adults at the Grove complex.

“This is objectionable,” said Councilor Richard Goddard, who was joined by Councilor Scott Starr in voting against the proposal. “You’ve achieved a higher density of units than anyone expected to see. In spite of your sales pitch, at the core is another bite at the apple. We had a fair amount of discussion this evening about the density we have this evening, and your project is credited with significantly moving the needle. No one is close to Wilsonville.”

As Goddard alluded, the hearing was preceded by extensive discussion during a council work session on an ongoing city housing needs analysis that shows Wilsonville’s housing stock currently is 57 percent multifamily against just 43 percent single-family. A number of local citizens also testified in advance of the hearing about their concern with this trend.

“Even before (Brenchley Estates) we were closer to 53 percent, which is higher than many of us believe is good,” Goddard said. “So I appreciate the model you’re trying to pursue here, I just don’t believe this is the right answer or the right project.”

Councilors, however, ultimately were swayed last week by ample testimony from local seniors who say they have long desired the type of apartments planned by Holland Partners Group.

“To me, this is the ideal project,” said Ken Woods, who lives in an apartment in the adjacent Jory Trail at the Grove complex. “I have no interest in moving into some place where it costs $3,500 a month.”

Holland Partners Group Chief Executive Officer Clyde Holland told the council he was as surprised as anyone by surveys showing significant demand in Wilsonville for age-restricted luxury apartments like those planned for Active Adults at the Grove.

“We were totally surprised,” Holland said, noting that much of the demand is coming from within Brenchley Estates. “We have 200-plus individuals who are 50 plus in those units, and what we have is better than what they found. But what they really want is to live in an age-restricted building where they don’t have kids jumping on their heads. They would like a secured building, and they want a building with elevators.”

The council’s approval follows the earlier approval of the project by Wilsonville’s Development Review Board Panel B. That public hearing attracted dozens of local residents concerned with the prospect of increasing the city’s proportion of multifamily housing, which at 57 percent is already the highest of any municipality in the Portland metro area. As part of that approval, panel members also approved a waiver of city code limiting the height of such buildings to 35 feet. The Active Adults at the Grove, by contrast, will be 47 feet tall when built and will have numerous elevators and other amenities designed to cater to older residents.

While the DRB is empowered to decide certain matters such as the height waver, other issues, including those that affect housing density, are beyond its purview.

In March 2012, DRB Panel B approved a total of 754 units in the combined north and south phases of Brenchley Estates. A month later, however, the city council adopted an ordinance that rezoned Brenchley Estates North and reduced the overall number of residential units across the entire development.

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