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Neighbors fear sports park plan

Noise, traffic and lights could disrupt their lives, critics say

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Edward Lewis walks along his backyard near the fence between his property and a future sports park behind Mountain View Middle School. He and his wife fear the park will be noisy, increase traffic and reduce their home's value.When Edward and Tamara Lewis bought their house 15 years ago, they accepted the noise of Southwest 170th Avenue in their front yard by taking solace in the quiet park that stretched toward summer sunsets just beyond their back fence.

The Lewises fear they soon will be getting an earful from both directions.

Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District next year will begin constructing a sports complex at what they currently call SW Quadrant Community Park, located behind Mountain View Middle School near the intersection of Southwest Farmington Road and 170th.

The park, which will feature several all-season synthetic fields (including Oregon’s first Champions Too athletic field designed for people with disabilities), fulfills a pledge to voters who approved a $100 million bond measure in 2008.

With multiple sports fields, some with all-season turf, plus an accessible playground, community garden, trails and other features all in one location, it promises to be a popular destination for a broad group of patrons.

But for about 100 nearby neighbors, the promise feels tarnished by concerns that the park will bring noise, traffic and bright lights barging into their lives.

“They’re meeting their needs,” said Tamara Lewis. “But they’re not meeting the needs of the residents that are here.”

“It’s a big deal to a lot of the neighbors,” agreed another neighbor, Monte Ypma.

But neighbors this week may have forfeited their best remaining opportunity to fight the plans.

Several of them pitched in for the $250 fee to appeal Washington County’s recent approval of the park district’s plans, but they accidentally missed the July 27 filing deadline by one day. They are considering other options to fight the park plan.

THPRD officials said most neighbors were supportive of their plan during public meetings last year, after they determined that locating the park behind the middle school would allow them to forge an agreement with the Beaverton School District to share the school’s fields and parking areas during non-school hours. The arrangement will also give taxpayers a bigger bang for their bond bucks than other properties they considered, said Tim Bonnin, project manager for the district.

The original project budget of $7.5 million is expected to increase because the scope of this project has grown to include a larger site and the Champions Too field, part of an “Access for All” campaign to make the property more inclusive to people regardless of barriers that might include physical or intellectual ability, income, age, and language or culture.

A current fundraising campaign will help pay for accessibility elements at the park while bond measure funds will cover the remaining budget.

Park officials said this week that recent criticism from neighbors, including several letters and a petition, took them by surprise coming so late in the process. The district’s board approved the master plan last November.

“There was a lot of positive feedback on the projects,” said Steve Gulgren, the district’s superintendent of design and development. “This is a big deal.”

Ypma, an architect, served on a THPRD task force and said there was early criticism, but he felt district officials discounted those concerns and “pretty much plowed ahead” with the plan. He and other neighbors believe the district simply is trying to put too many fields onto the site, placing the players and lights just beyond the neighbors’ back fences. Games will be allowed until 10 p.m. under proposed park rules.

“They’re really trying to cram too much onto a tight site,” Ypma said. “It’s essentially busting at the seams.”

Philip Bailey, who lives just south of the park site and circulated the petition, said they already hear bands and cheering from Aloha High School a mile away. When the sporting events are less than 100 feet away and accompanied by towering lights, he fears his young children won’t be able to get enough sleep.

“That’s one of our biggest concerns,” he said, “is the noise.”

Neighbors also are worried that cars going in and out of a driveway to a future 60-space parking lot off 170th will further clot that street’s traffic flow, which has worsened as growing neighborhoods from Cooper Mountain south to Sherwood continue funnelling more traffic through their neighborhood.

“I will never get home,” said neighbor Susan Stocker, who described rush-hour backups on that stretch of 170th between traffic signals at Southwest Farmington Road and Oak Street.

Stocker was among neighbors who suggested that the district could funnel all traffic to the park from Farmington Road, where there already are traffic signals near Mountain View. District officials said that option was considered but wouldn’t allow the general public to get to the park while school was in session.

The park district will preserve a large grove of large Douglas fir trees on the southwest side of the site, which connects to existing Lawndale Park, but will remove other trees that interfere with the plans to develop fields and other facilities.

Some neighbors don’t want trees cut near their fence lines and also believe crowded sporting events could shift some cars into the neighborhoods in search of additional parking.

Gulgren said the district already took some steps to help alleviate neighbors’ concerns, including a redesign that shifted fields a little farther from homes. There was talk of building sound walls but the idea was rejected.

Bonnin, the project manager, said immediate neighbors are frequently apprehensive about park projects before they are built, but in the past, most of the critical neighbors grew to love their parks.

“We get that on every project,” he said. “It’s new to them.”