Despite strong objections from a group of neighbors, new developments in the Villebois Village Center received a thumbs-up from Wilsonville City Council during a meeting Monday, Nov. 15.
The neighbors had appealed a decision by the city's Development Review Board to approve a proposal submitted by Costa Pacific Communities to develop 143 housing units and over 2,400 square feet of retail in three buildings on land that has long sat undeveloped due in large part to the difficulty of bringing retail development to a suburban environment.
In particular, the neighbors strongly opposed a parking lot that would be available for residents and workers of the new buildings, citing the fact that the only access point would be a relatively narrow alleyway that runs alongside some of their homes. Costa Pacific added the parking lot due to ongoing concerns among Wilsonville residents about a lack of on-street parking in the neighborhood.
However, the City Council was not persuaded by their arguments — which focused on a loss of property values and safety concerns — voting unanimously to validate the decision. The neighbors also felt that the approval of the development was a foregone conclusion and accused city staff of telling the review board they had to vote for approval.
Planning Manager Dan Pauly had explained during the review board meetings that the board is tasked not with deciding which developments to approve and deny based on their own opinions, but to ensure that applications meet city code, which he said the Costa Pacific application did.
Some review board members had sympathized with the neighbors in the previous hearings, saying they felt like it was their duty to approve the development despite some of their misgivings.
On Monday, Council President Kristin Akervall expressed concern that neighbors felt shut out of the process but did not feel that the transcripts of the meetings reflected that perception.
And other councilors noted the need to allow private property owners to do what they want with their land as long as they comply with standards.
"While I'm sympathetic about the issues that have been raised by our citizens that have to do with their home values and the issues of safety, I know that we're not always happy about what might happen within our neighborhoods and the impact they have on us," Councilor Joann Linville said.
"We see that happen when there are developments and there are structures that are put up on legitimately owned pieces of property that neighbors believe will have a negative impact on the value of their homes," she said. "That doesn't allow us to take away the rights of that property owner to do what legally they have every right to do."
Further, Councilor Charlotte Lehan put the decision in the context of the Villebois development as a whole — and the planning that went into it over many years. She said Villebois already has more restrictions and conditions to development than most communities.
"We are open to discussion for things when there's a good reason for them to change, and we've done that multiple times. We have to be very cautious in terms of private property rights that we have already restricted as much as we have in Villebois and say 'We changed our minds again and you can't do what we told you you could do,'" Lehan said.
The neighbors could appeal the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.
Prior to its decision, the council discussed tax incentives it could implement in the village center to make mixed-use proposals there with both retail and housing more attractive to developers. The city and consultant EcoNorthwest also indicated that further investments might be needed, such as a tenant improvement program, to help make the space feasible for businesses.
However, Chris Blakney with EcoNorthwest said a full-time, sit-down restaurant in the area would likely not be practical because he expects the businesses in the center to mainly be frequented by Villebois residents who are too few in number to keep such a business thriving.
He mentioned more hobby shop spaces and possibly a part-time cafe that does not have a kitchen as being more practical possibilities. Lehan also felt that personal services businesses like a dog groomer could work.
The city and consultants suggested allowing for the creation of "live-work spaces," meaning spaces that are used both for housing and for commercial purposes, at the buildings with specific criteria to ensure that a certain portion of the space is designated for commercial use.
"Our intent is to not be too limiting in how we define these spaces so we can allow for different users and have that flexibility," Senior Planner Kim Rybold said at the meeting.
The city will continue fine-tuning design criteria for this initiative.
City attorney to retire
Wilsonville City Attorney Barbar Jacobson is slated to retire in March of next year. The city approved an amended employment agreement with Jacobson at the meeting. At that point, she has agreed to work with the city as much as needed until her services are no longer required.
Jacobson was hired as the city's assistant city attorney in 2011 and then was promoted to city attorney in 2015.
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