A developer's latest attempt to gain approval for two variances that would allow multi-family housing at two plots of land near a busy Troutdale intersection was narrowly approved by the City Council.
The 4-3 affirmative vote on Tuesday, Aug. 28, paves the way for contractor Sheldon Development to build a 216-unit apartment complex at an empty lot where a popular strawberry stand operates in the summer, but that development also hinges on the council's approval.
Councilors only voted to allow for apartments to be built on the vacant site, and not on the development itself, said Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan.
"The line has been blurred a bit because the developer is also the property owner," he said before the vote was taken. "We have to be very clear, we're not voting on a project, we're voting on 'is this property ever going to be multi-family housing?'"
The vote is a change from what the council originally decided earlier this year.
On June 10, the council voted 5-2 to tentatively deny the application by Sheldon Development seeking the variances.
The decision was tentative because councilors were required to cite specific legal zoning criteria for the denial, and the councilors' primary objection was the developer's lack of a timeline to build traffic improvements.
During several government meetings about the developments, many citizens spoke in opposition, citing traffic increases, overcrowding in the Reynolds School District with the ensuing enrollment increase, and a negative impact to home values. During the meetings, only a few people spoke in support of the zoning change.
Representatives from Sheldon Development objected to the council's decision and requested another hearing to address these issues.
To address councilor's main concern, the developer asked the City Council to impose a restriction on Sheldon Development that requires traffic improvements be constructed in concert with any construction project, and the improvements must be completed by December 2020 — or finished before any apartments are leased.
The traffic improvements will include adding an eastbound lane on Cherry Park Road, and constructing a right turn lane on 242nd Street directing cars onto Cherry Park Road. These projects will require replacement of the intersection's traffic light.
The theory behind adding the eastbound lane, along with the turning lane, is that the traffic improvements will mitigate having more cars in the area, said Michael Robinson, a land-use attorney representing Sheldon Development.
Robinson added that apartments at the location are an appropriate use of the bare land, which has been vacant for decades.
"The site doesn't really make sense for low-density residential, it makes sense for high-density," he said. "It's across from a shopping center, and it's on a couple of busy streets. I think if that was going to get developed (as low-density), it would have already happened. There's a very robust housing market. I think it's hard to put single family housing at a busy intersection like this."