City of Forest Grove Planning Commission reviewed Forest Grove Community School, sidewalks and flag lots

The Planning Commission began our Sept. 13 meeting with testimony from a young citizen (he wore his Cub Scout uniform) who urged us to do something about the lack of sidewalks and safe bicycling on 26th Avenue.

Later in our meeting, we learned the city is already in the process of designing improvements to 26th Avenue, which apparently needs to be widened by 8 feet on each side. If all goes well with planning and with cooperation from the property owners along the street — and if funding is found — then construction could begin as early as next year.

We then held two public hearings. First, we approved a Continue Use Permit (CUP) for the Forest Grove Community School for the use of two modular units on their school grounds. We had originally approved the use of these two buildings in 2012, but at that time we placed a five-year limit on the CUP so we could review how the building usage was working out.

Also, in 2012 the Community School had plans to use the top floor of their main building, which would remove the need for these two buildings. However, that plan proved to be financially impractical and they now need to use the two modular units on a permanent basis.

Over the five years, two situations developed that needed a remedy. One, the wood chips in the play area were being dispersed onto a city parking area. Therefore, we included a condition of approval that a barrier be placed along the fence bordering the parking lot that would prevent the chips from falling onto the parking area.

Two, the trash receptacle needed to be placed under a roof to meet the standards of Clean Water Services for possible water leaking from the inside of the trash bin. The school administrator indicated that both changes could be met within the six months the commission required for completion of these changes.

Finally, we required these two buildings be removed within 90 days if the Community School moved to a new location.

Our second hearing was from a citizen appealing the Community Development Department staff's decision to allow a partition of a property on 26th Avenue from a single lot to two flag lots. The original home would remain, though the driveway would be eliminated.

The Commission had previously denied this particular partition due to the fact that the flag lots would not have the required 15-foot frontage on the street.

The applicant had revised their original design in such a manner that the required 15-foot frontage for the flag lots was now met. They accomplished this by changing the boundary of the lot with the remaining home to allow the second and third lots to have the required frontage. All three lots would share the same driveway. However, the "flag pole" part of the two new lots narrowed once they reached the area adjacent to the remaining home to 13 feet each. This allowed for a 26-foot driveway to serve all three lots.

A neighbor appealed the approval by the Community Development Department on the grounds that the change did not solve the problem of traffic or safety along 26th Avenue and that the change seemed artificial.

The main issue is one the commission has dealt with in the past of having an area of the city that was once on the edge of the city but now is zoned for multi-family homes. The area on the north side of 26th Avenue is zoned to have 12 units per acre and the area on the south side of the street is zoned to have 20 units per acre. Currently, both sides have single family homes, but several have lots that when developed will be required to have the proper number of units per acre. The change from the current situation raises anxiety and opposition from the current owners in many cases, but the commission is required to follow city codes in making its decisions.

The lot in question can have four units on it and the desire to meet this possibility is the reason for the partition of the property.

Given that this partition meets all city requirements and allows the property owner to meet the zoning requirements, we upheld the staff approval of this partition.

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Tom Beck reports on the activities of the Planning Commission, which he chairs.

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