Planning commission recommends approval of 113-lot housing plan

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The former site of Wilsonville's Living Enrichment Center looks destined to be redeveloped as an upscale neighborhood.A proposed 113-lot residential development on the former site of the Living Enrichment Center got a green light from the Wilsonville Planning Commission.

Commissioners voted 6-1 at a Sept. 11 public hearing to approve an amendment to the Villebois Master Plan that could allow the 43-acre property to be developed over the next several years by homebuilder Polygon Northwest.

“We have had a lot of community input,” Polygon Northwest President Fred Gast told commissioners. “We try to take all of those different things and come up with a plan that we think is fair and balances those different interests. We intend to build it as you kind of see it here. This is designated for compact urban development; it’s part of Villebois, but a very unique piece. There are no smalls, there’s no townhomes, there’s no cottages; we’ve focused all of our efforts on large lots.”

Formerly designated as a future study area by the master plan, the property in question has long been designated for residential development. But with more than half the area’s acreage consisting of open space and riparian areas, the nature of that development was never specified in the same manner as the rest of Villebois.

As approved by the commission, the development would feature 38 percent (43) large or standard lots, with the rest (70) being medium lots. There would be no small lots, row homes or townhouses included. By comparison, the adjacent Arbor Phase 4 development, which partially wraps around the future study area, consists of 35 percent large or standard lots, 9 percent medium and 56 percent small lots.

At roughly 2.8 homes per acre over the entire development, the future study area would likely be the lowest density phase of development at Villebois.

According to the minutes of a July 10 planning commission work session, “the average lot size of the proposed application for the subject site exceeded any other within the functional classification. The proposed lots would be the largest lots of any other application.”

“Frankly,” Gast told the commission, “there’s a lot more demand for that type of home style today. We believe it’s a balanced approach still keeping within the appropriate tenor of what Villebois is.”

Commissioners ultimately agreed with that assessment, with the exception of Marta McGuire, the lone vote in opposition, who repeatedly expressed her desire to see a higher percentage of large lots included in the development.

A total of 23 acres, including wetlands, is designated as open space. A further 7.1 acres would be used for public rights of way including streets, sidewalks, landscape strips, medians and streets.

An exact street alignment would be identified in the future when an actual development plan is submitted.

The hearing actually was opened Aug. 14, when commissioners debated the matter for several hours before continuing to Sept. 11. The commission’s vote is a recommendation to the Wilsonville City Council, which will likely hold a hearing of its own in October.

Originally developed by the state of Oregon as the Callahan Center for Workman Rehabilitation, the future study area featured this operation until 1986. From the early 1970s until the recent demolition, the property housed a substantial institutional development, including one large main building, several outbuildings and 19 stand-alone cottages.

The Living Enrichment Center was a New Thought church that grew from the late 1970s from a membership of a few dozen to a high of more than 4,000 around the turn of the century when it moved to the future study area and accompanying buildings.

The church collapsed in 2004 amidst a multi-million dollar financial scandal that saw co-founder Edward Morrissey sentenced to a federal prison term. Since then the property has been vacant.

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