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'We can't just continue to shoehorn developments based on a comprehensive plan that has not proven to be effective.'

The West Linn City Council voted 3-2 Monday in favor of the first reading of an ordinance to rezone an unincorporated, 3.75-acre property at 22915 Weatherhill Road — the first in a two-step process to annex the property into city limits.

But that was as far as the application went during the Feb. 11 meeting. Because the vote wasn't unanimous on first reading, the council couldn't proceed to a second reading. And without finalizing the rezoning, the council couldn't proceed to the second step in the process: a resolution to approve the annexation itself.

As a result of the council's split vote, the applicant — Sequoia Heights Capital Partners, LLC — must wait longer before potentially moving forward with plans to build an expansion of the Tanner Spring Assisted Living Facility. Such an expansion, according to consultant Andrew Tull, is projected to add between 50 and 80 new units for assisted and independent senior living.

The two councilors who voted "no" on the rezoning ordinance — Bill Relyea and Rich Sakelik — expressed concerns about the applicant's preferred zoning designation of R-3 (which carries a minimum lot size of 3,000 square feet for single-family, duplex and multi-family units). They preferred for the property to be zoned R-7 (lot size of between 5,500 and 7,000 square feet for single-family units, 11,000 for duplexes and no multi-family units) to protect against the possibility of a change in the applicant's plan.

Tanner Springs consists of apartment-like units for seniors.

"I would prefer R-7 so if something happened and it had to be single-family, it would conform more (to the surrounding neighborhood)," Sakelik said, adding that a request for a zoning change to R-3 could be made after the annexation if need be.

Relyea added that just because the city's Comprehensive Plan called for R2.1 or R-3 zoning if it was annexed, that didn't mean the council had to follow it without further consideration.

"There has to be balance in the community," Relyea said. "We can't just continue to shoehorn developments based on a comprehensive plan that has not proven to be effective."

West Linn Planner Jennifer Arnold said it would be difficult for developers to switch course with the R-3 zoning.

"(The zoning) would require some sort of attached housing to be on the property in addition to whatever development someone wants to propose," Arnold said. "A single-family home wouldn't meet density requirements."

Tull, for his part, said forcing an additional zoning change application on the property owners would be an unusual request since the Tanner Springs expansion couldn't take place under R-7 zoning. He also argued that the expanded facility would benefit the community.

"We want older members to be able to stay in the community," Tull said.

While several residents who live near the Weatherhill property testified with concerns over increased density — one person referenced the "million dollar homes with children playing outside" while voicing those concerns — the majority of the council favored the annexation and prospective expansion of Tanner Springs.

"I think that we do have a need in the community for affordable housing and if it were to be used for this purpose we're being shown, that would be a benefit for our community for people nearing that phase of life who want that option," City Council President Teri Cummings said. "I feel supportive of this designation with the reassurance that giving it an R-3 could culminate in this type of configuration."

"I think we need more assisted living in this community," Mayor Russ Axelrod added.

But it wasn't to be — at least on this night. The council will reconsider the annexation at a later date.


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