Woodburn Planning Commission's approval of a 204-unit apartment complex in the 1300 block of N. Pacific Highway 99E raised questions and concerns from residents east of the project.
The Pacific Valley Apartment project would erect a number of three-story buildings, a complex containing 36 one-bedroom, 150 two-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom units just north of Al's Garden & Home and just west of Country Acres Estates, a subdivision through which Greenview Drive runs parallel to Pacific Highway.
The planning commission approved applicant Leeb Architects' proposal with conditions. Included in the approval was a variance that waived a required wall bordering the prioperty on the east side in lieu of shrubbery.
"Because the site to the rear east adjoins a different zoning district with houses, the code would ordinarily require screening with an 8-foot wall," Woodburn Senior Planner Colin Cortes said. "In this case, the applicant is proposing a less-expensive measure in the form of dense evergreen shrubbery and trees, and staff is convinced that as proposed it will accomplish the purpose of buffering, which is the purpose of behind the wall requirement."
Greenview Drive resident Kim Fuller, whose property sits adjacent to one of the proposed apartment buildings, would prefer the wall.
Fuller said residents of Country Acres Estates were notified in advance of the project, but they were not aware of its size and scope.
"Before the hearing, none of us knew the apartment complex was going to be three stories tall, nor that they would be close to our property lines with windows looking into our backyards and windows, nor that they would be using...a hedge rather than a solid wall or fence as a buffer," Fuller noted in an email.
Fuller was unable to attend the hearing, but her neighbor, Fred Muraviov, was in attendance, and he expressed similar concerns.
Traffic was another concern expressed at the hearing. Joshua Schuyler, proprietor of Schuyler Family Dental across the highway from the project, said he had seen cars wait for several minutes at the intersection of Alexandra Avenue and Pacific Highway, awaiting an opportunity to turn during heavy traffic. He wondered how much more traffic would the area sustain with the addition of the large complex.
The project plan's traffic engineer, Brian Davis, said the alignment of the entrance into the complex was adjusted to minimize conflicting traffic points.
Robert Leeb, principal in charge for Leeb Architects, stressed that the site is zoned for three-story multi-family buildings, the project is in keeping with the city's goals for increased housing and housing density, and that his firm has adhered to all the requirements.
"Our project is self contained," Leeb said. "And we met with the fire marshall, state highway people, and they're very satisfied with the entrance we have, where it's located, what we are doing on the street improvements on 99 and all the access points around the site."
The planning commission agreed.
"After a lengthy discussion of the issues raised, especially landscaping and a potential wall, the commission voted to approve the proposal with all of the recommended conditions, including upgraded landscaping and limitation on outdoor lighting in lieu of constructing a wall along the eastern property line," Woodburn Community Development Director Chris Kerr said.
While the project has been given the commission's nod, there could be more hearings before it breaks ground.
"The Commission's decision can be appealed by any party with standing, such as those who attended the hearing," Kerr said, referencing Schuyler, Muraviov and his father, Alex Muraviov. "Appeals are heard by the city council. Additionally, the city council also has the option to 'call –up' the Planning Commission decision on their own for review as well."
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