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The public hearing for three proposed mixed-use buildings along with a parking lot will continue until an Oct. 23 meeting

SCREENSHOT - The proposed buildings would add retail, residential and other uses to the Villebois community.

The Wilsonville government's Development Review Board tabled a decision about whether to approve three new mixed-use buildings that would fill longstanding gaps in the Villebois Village Center until an Oct. 23 meeting. This delay was made to potentially address residents' concerns about a parking structure that will line up against their homes.

Development at Villebois doesn't always go smoothly. A blaze set in 2019 destroyed an under-construction apartment complex and ravaged 20 occupied condos. Exactly who set the fire remains a mystery.

The proposal submitted by Costa Pacific Communities would add 2,460 square feet of retail, 142 market-rate apartments, a fitness center, postal services and other amenities to the community in three buildings that surround the Piazza, which is a part at the center of the planned community. Wilsonville City Council has further discussed a vertical housing program designed to subsidize these complexes, as no developer has agreed to build them out without subsidy over the last 15 years because they have said the project isn't financially viable.

The discussion at the review board meeting, which took place Monday, Sept. 27, mostly centered around a proposed 24-space parking lot (with four additional spaces) that would only be accessible via an alley next to some Villebois homes. Forty nearby residents signed a petition opposing the development on the grounds that the parking lot would increase traffic and crime near their homes, remove valued green space and lower their property values. One meeting testifier even threatened litigation over the matter.

"Many have said if this goes through, you can see a 'for sale' sign soon," Villebois resident Michel Sandlin told the Spokesman prior to the meeting.

Though they seemed to support the overall proposal to build out the center, board members expressed sympathy for the concerns of these residents and a hope that a compromise could be reached.

"I still don't get a warm and fuzzy feeling about the safety of that alleyway and the actions that will be there. That is going to be my objection to this," board member Jason Abernathy said. "In listening to the folks who came out and talked tonight, I believe they have a great concern."

Developer Ruby Kadlub explained at the meeting that he added the parking lot in response to concerns — expressed when a previous iteration of the proposal was on the table — from residents who felt the village center buildout would exacerbate parking problems. The lot meant that the proposal included 183 spaces, exceeding the minimum standard of 167 spots.

City Planner Cindy Luxhoj explained that the parking lot site was never designed to be open space, as it is now. The site currently has extensive landscaping, she said, because it previously held a sales and marketing office. Stacy Connery with Costa Pacific Communities further added that, if not for a parking lot, the site could have held condos.

"We heard concerns from early on about insufficient parking. So, what the developer decided to do was add parking to address concerns we heard early on. This is something we've offered and he's forgoing potential development of that site to address concerns we've heard from the community," Connery said.

A couple people who testified at the meeting advocated for the full buildout of the village center and resident, Garet Prior, said that those buildings being occupied by tenants and businesses could actually decrease the risk of crime and incidents like the fire at a condominium complex in the community in 2019 due to a higher degree of community presence and vigilance. He added that the project is important for addressing housing needs locally.

"This is our choice that we have tonight. We stick to the longstanding plan for housing for all types and all kinds of people in our center, or we restrict it through denying this to be more expensive and exclusive in our community," Prior said.

However, the seeds of compromise may have been planted at the end of the meeting. Kadlub suggested the removal of four parking spaces as part of the proposal. Board members, who were receptive to community concerns, seemed to appreciate that gesture as well as the possibility that the spaces would be reserved for specific uses in the center rather than available to all members of the public.

The public hearing for the proposal was continued until the October meeting, but it was unclear based on the meeting what will be done in the meantime to change the plan. Board member, Samy Nada, suggested that a more up-to-date traffic study be undertaken (the official study was conducted in 2019) prior to that, but city staff said an application can only be rejected or approved based on the results of the previous study, which showed that the area could handle the increased traffic. Nada also wanted Kadlub to meet with concerned residents prior to the next meeting, but staff said that there might not be enough time to reach out to the full breadth of community members who could be impacted.

By the end of the four-hour affair, significant questions lingered about the proposal and what would be discussed in October.

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