Old Town residents unhappy with proposed townhouse development
In response to citizens' concerns about a recent Development Review Board decision that paved the way for a six-unit townhouse development in the Old Town neighborhood, Wilsonville city councilors decided to bring the issue up for future council deliberation during a meeting Monday, Oct. 12.
Councilor Joann Linville said she brought the issue to the council's attention after speaking with resident Mary-Elizabeth Harper, who felt that citizens didn't have proper opportunity to share input on the project. Neighbors also had concerns about parking and architecture.
"My impression was that there was considerable concern among the community about this particular development. So we'll look at it on their behalf," Linville said in an interview following Monday's meeting.
Unlike other city bodies like the Planning Commission and Library Board, the DRB has authority to make final decisions on proposed developments unless the council decides to intervene. The council is slated to review the ruling during multiple meetings in November.
During the first DRB meeting, the board asked the developer to conduct a meeting with nearby residents to see if they could come to a resolution. But that meeting never took place and the DRB passed a resolution approving the development anyway at a subsequent meeting.
"It (the meeting) wasn't an enforceable requirement," City Planning Manager Daniel Pauly said in an interview. "There's no rules to base that requirement."
Harper told Pamplin Media Group she had additional concerns about how the public process was conducted but declined to comment further.
In addition to public process qualms, Old Town neighbors had questions about the development itself.
The property is located at the northern edge of the neighborhood and the city wrote in its staff report that it could serve as a transition point between single-family homes and multifamily and commercial entities.
Steve Van Wechel, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, said the development would be the only three-story building nearby and that the architecture doesn't fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, which was planned to resemble 1880s-to-1930s architecture.
"My understanding is the developers' statement is they put a modern interpretation onto the historical design," he said. "I don't think they did near enough."
However, the city's staff report posits a different view, stating that the "modern unadorned design, neutral color tones and varied natural materials" of the development blend with the surrounding environment.
Van Wechel and other neighbors are also concerned that future townhouse residents will have to park in a nearby cul-de-sac that is already often occupied because there won't be enough parking spaces. This could also hamper emergency vehicle access, he added.
The units would have both a garage and one additional parking space per unit.
"In addition, double the number of required spaces, 12 rather than six, are provided to address concerns of neighbors about finding on-street parking near their homes," the staff report reads.
Van Wechel said multifamily housing in general doesn't fit well in Old Town and he worried that legislation like House Bill 2001 could mean more multi-family homes would be built there in the future. To him, preserving historic neighborhood qualities is important. One unique characteristic of the neighborhood is a lack of sidewalks and curbs. The proposed development is located in a part of the neighborhood where multifamily homes are allowed.
The city is in the process of figuring out how to adapt its code to HB 2001, which was designed to foster more housing throughout the state.
"It's too early to say exactly how this will impact Old Town specifically. Certainly that's part of the scope of the project we're working on," Pauly said.
Linville, who previously served as a DRB chair, said the board can't always assuage neighbors' concerns about a proposed development. Pauly added that, generally speaking, citizens who don't like a particular decision sometimes claim that the public process wasn't conducted appropriately.
"We can't guarantee that everyone is going to be happy about every outcome," Linville said.
Though it will review the record, the council decided against opening up the case for more testimony but could do so at a later date.
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