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Future of former Living Enrichment Center site before planning commission


Polygon Northwest wants a Villebois Master Plan amendment in order to build 113 homes

by:  JOSH KULLA - The former Living Enrichment Center once occupied a 94,500-square-foot building on this property. That now has been demolished to make way for a proposed 113-lot residential development.Another Wilsonville landmark with an eclectic past looks set to be redeveloped into a quiet, suburban neighborhood.

At least that’s the intention of developer Polygon Northwest. The company’s representatives will go before the Wilsonville Planning Commission tonight with a proposal to amend the Villebois Master Plan to allow construction of up to 113 single-family residential lots located on the former site of the now-infamous Living Enrichment Center.

The 43-acre site along Grahams Ferry Road is now called Grande Point at Villebois. It does not yet have an approved development plan, but at an open house held last month, Polygon Northwest representatives revealed the project would feature lots ranging in size from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet. The homes would range from 2,200 to 3,200 square feet, which is somewhat larger than the roughly 1,800 square average for Villebois homes built to date. The project also would include approximately 23 acres of parks and open space.

In the meantime, planning commissioners will consider whether or not to recommend to the Wilsonville City Council whether to amend the Villebois Master Plan to incorporate the proposal. After that, a Sept. 5 public hearing is scheduled before the Wilsonville City Council.

If the council approves the amendment, only then would any development proposal be submitted to the city, said Wilsonville Planning Director Chris Neamtzu.

“Polygon has designed a project with that number of units,” Neamtzu told the council at its Aug. 5 meeting. “They’re way down the line and they’ve communicated that with the neighborhood. But the city has not received that application yet; it’s understood that it will be (submitted) pending the master plan revisions.”

The proposed development has garnered plenty of public attention following a public meeting held last month by Polygon Northwest to announce the project.

But Mayor Tim Knapp noted that he has heard from some people assuming a development plan has already been approved by the city.

In response, councilors are now working with city legal and planning staff to craft a unified response to repeated questions they are receiving.

“I would find it helpful to have a draft of a communication that sort of says that there is not an adopted plan and that we have to adopt one before a development plan comes forward,” Knapp said.

Attorney Mike Kohlhoff said legal staff is working on a standardized message that can be used on behalf of councilors by city staff.

The announcement by Polygon Northwest ends years of speculation over the future of the former Living Enrichment site, which was essentially abandoned in 2004 by what once was a New Thought megachurch and retreat center.

Founded by minister Mary Manin Morrissey in the mid-1970s, the church moved in 1992 to a 94,500-square-foot building on 95 acres adjacent to what was then the Dammasch State Hospital off Grahams Ferry Road.

During a tumultuous dozen years in Wilsonville, the church grew from less than a dozen to an estimated 4,000 members. At its height, Morrissey and her husband, Edward, oversaw an empire that included an in-house bookstore, retreat center, kindergarten, elementary school and television broadcast ministry.

The Living Enrichment Center closed abruptly in 2004 after a $10.7 million financial scandal resulted in Edward Morrissey pleading guilty to federal money laundering charges. During his trial, he admitted to using church money for himself and his wife’s personal expenses.

The huge, concrete-block building was abandoned after closing, and since 2006 has been the subject of speculation about its future.