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Oregon City resident Tom Geil: Developer shouldn't have insulted volunteer members of Planning Commission.

Tom GeilIncredulous! At first I wasn't quite sure if I was reading a joke or a satire by Harlan Borow, until I read to the end and discovered that he was a paid public relations "lackey" or marketing guy from Icon Construction.

Mr. Borow was being paid to place Icon in the best light, as if they were doing us a favor. After I wiped away my tears from laughing so hard, it hit me: Mr. Borow was not only calling the hundreds of citizens who have come before the Planning Commission "short sighted," even though they have presented valid concerns, but his comment also referred to our planning commissioners, many of whom have echoed the same questions.

Planning commissioners are volunteers appointed by our mayor for their knowledge and experience. They have years of familiarity with city code. Icon's paid representatives typically take up two to three rows of seats, with 7-inch binders, requiring staff to pull in more chairs for the overflow of residents who have valid testimony to deliver. How many paid representatives does Icon need, when many of them never speak, but they take up seats of residents who actually live here?

Mr. Borow presented an obvious one-sided diatribe of all the great things that Icon was presenting, simply so they could make a major profit and walk away when it's done, leaving residents to deal with the traffic congestion and other major issues. This is no favor to Oregon City; it's nothing but a large profit for I.C.O.N. (Interlopers Can Own Neighborhoods).

Certainly, as he points out, Metro is pushing their agenda of more housing, no matter what it does to existing residents. Metro leaders do not live in this community. They were not here during the September 2020 fire evacuation, when it took residents up to two hours to exit out of their neighborhoods and down Holcomb. Neither was Icon. Yet Icon wants to flood side streets in the Trail View neighborhood with traffic, by opening stub roads into small residential streets where children play and ride bikes.

Icon wasn't here during the early development of the Park Place Concept Plan in 2005, when many of our residents attended meetings and charrettes and came up with an agreeable plan that was adopted by city leadership. According to the adopted Concept Plan, the lots were decided to be 5,000 square feet in order to provide more housing, yet less intense density. The whole concept was based on a major connector road to remove more traffic from future development on Holcomb.

Since that time, a development on the old air strip has added over 93 homes. Icon is now adding another 127 homes on the old Serres property on Holcomb. There have been many more home developments along Holcomb, yet Icon has paid its own traffic engineers to give a favorable report.

Phase 1 of Icon's debacle will add another 547 homes with few options for traffic flow. Residents will either have to travel way out of their way on what they call the Holly Lane extension, which wraps around Trail View and travels up to a yet-to-be-determined connection to Holcomb, or take the path of least resistance, which is through the existing Trail View neighborhood.

At the last Planning Commission meeting, Icon sheepishly admitted they have no plans to complete the road down to Redland until it is needed in future phases. Talk about "short sighted"! In the meantime, Icon intends to wait until traffic counts through existing neighborhoods becomes so clogged, that they would then consider coming up with a plan for a connector road that could take years to construct. In the meantime, all those supposedly "short sighted" residents will just have to sit. And God willing, no resident will die in their burning car, waiting to evacuate a neighborhood fire.

But let's step back for a moment to those agreed-upon 5,000-square-foot lots. Icon is pushing for a variance to build numerous lots at only 1,800 square feet, well below even the city minimum of 2,500 square feet. They want to cram as many supposedly "affordable lots" into this area to increase their profits. And it has become quite obvious to any homeowners that no homes by Icon are affordable.

By code, all connector roads in Oregon City must be a minimum of 85 feet wide, but Icon, in its push for higher density, has requested a variance to lower the width of the connector road to only 52 to 57 feet, to allow the connector Holly Lane to squeeze through a pinch point in the Phase 1 area. I remember sitting on the Planning Commission when then-Community Development Director Laura Terway announced that 85 feet was the new code. I specifically asked her to repeat that new code means "all" connector roads had to meet that requirement. If any "individual" came before the Planning Commission and requested such a variance, they would assuredly be denied. But Icon has money. And money is power in this city.

Yes, Icon is offering up a park, but even that is no gift. Also, part of the original Concept Plan were garages accessible through alleyways. Icon is doing its best to squeeze its way through that part of the plan. In fact, very little of Icon's plan truly meets the original Concept Plan that took years to complete.

Icon is going to pull every punch, twist every code and ask for every possible variance to make huge profits before waltzing away.

However, if mighty Icon continues to insult the very members of the Planning Commission who have understood the hundreds of residents who have delivered testimony, and who themselves have asked similar questions, Icon may have a very rude awakening.

We the residents stand united to fight this to the last pine needle of trees that Icon will tear down to accomplish their paving over paradise to put up their impervious development. Icon, if you want to convince us that you are building a good development for our community, our city and for Metro, build it responsibly and according to the original, well-thought out, well-planned Concept Plan.

Tom Geil is an Oregon City resident and former planning commissioner.

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