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Plans for Cove site approved

But citizens say new traffic study needed before 71-unit housing project proceeds at Willamette Cove site

Some West Linn citizens are hoping to put the brakes on a decision by the West Linn Planning Commission to allow development of a 71-unit housing project by landowner Jerry Jennings at the current Willamette Cove site.

Mark Braverman and Buffalo Zobel have announced they will seek to have the West Linn City Council put a moratorium on the planning commission action until a traffic study can be made of the Cove area.

'The planning commission was conflicted about its decision,' said Braverman, noting the narrow approval vote. 'They expressed concerns about the adequacy of the data. We think their speech and action were conflicted, and that definitely makes this right for a city council review.'

In their action on Sept. 14, the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the project after lengthy testimony, both pro and con. Once a manufactured home park for senior citizens, Willamette Cove is set to become a housing development for 71 single-family homes under the Jennings plan.

Commissioners Michael Jones and Michael Bonoff voted against the project, citing the lack of an adequate transportation plan and concern over corridor traffic issues.

Voting in favor of the project were commissioners Gary Stark, Michael Babbitt and Paul Fisher. Chairman John Kovash, who votes only in case of a tie, said that, despite the commission's concern about traffic issues, it works under strict limitations under state law. When it comes to delaying the approval of projects, only the city council could approve a moratorium.

In testimony at the meeting, Braverman told the commissioners, 'Let's slow the train down sufficiently enough to look at the plan. Some issues have been raised here that are obvious.'

Traffic was just one of the issues raised by citizens urging delay of the Cove project. Maureen Bonfiglio and Elizabeth Rocchia, both residents of Willamette Falls Drive, testified to concerns about water and drainage, stability of the soil and the impact on wildlife.

'Too little attention is being paid to the overall impact on the neighborhood,' Rocchia told the commissioners. 'You do control the order and sequence of events. You do control use of land.'

However, the favorable vote was made after the presentation of the planning commission's staff report - which included a traffic study - and testimony by representatives for Jennings - including attorney Roger Alford and planning consultant Rick Givens. In addition, the staff and representatives worked to amend three conditions to the plan - agreeing on the location of a trail, maintaining the tree berms along Willamette Falls Drive, and agreeing to contribute to the improvement of the Salamo/Blankenship; 10th Street and 8th Avenue; and Tannler/Blankenship intersections - in order to better meet city concerns about the housing development.

All criteria for approving the Jennings proposal had been met, according to Bryan Brown, West Linn planning director.

However, Braverman and Zobel want the West Linn City Council to delay the decision until another traffic study is done. If not, they believe a monumental traffic problem is likely to develop in that area of West Linn. Thus, the livability of the city would be diminished.

'We want the city to assure us that, before they allow any development, that traffic and water issues will be addressed in a definitive way, and not say that if things go wrong they can be fixed later,' Braverman said. 'If this isn't done, we might be asked for a multiple bond measure to deal with a situation that was created by developers.'

Zobel added, 'The impact on the city's infrastructure will be totally different. Instead of senior citizens (who currently live in Willamette Cove manufactured home park) making few trips there will be families making several trips a day, and it will compound other infrastructure issues.'

The two men say the proposed Cove project is just part of a situation faced by a booming area of West Linn that is seeing many other projects springing up. These include Tannler East, Tannler West, Renaissance Homes' Dollar Street Property and Willamette Marketplace.

'It's a perfect storm of major developments coming together at the same time at I-205 and the 10th Street interchange,' Braverman said. 'These are all very large commercial developments and they cause huge concerns about traffic flow. We're already experiencing significant traffic holdup.

'Who has the 3-D vision to see how this will play out? The planning commission seems focused on 2-D vision. There are common sense aspects about this that are not being accounted for.'

At the very least, Braverman and Zobel hope the city will allow public input on the issue.

'This has not been open to the public as much as it should be,' said Zobel, who noted that he was not allowed to attend planning sessions on the Cove project involving city staff and developer representatives.

The written final decision of the planning commission is expected to go to the city council by Monday's meeting. There will then be a 14-day period in which those who testified at the meeting can file for a moratorium before the decision becomes final.

Braverman and Zobel say they will not delay in taking action.

'This is the time to be involved,' Braverman said. 'We can go back to our sleepy lives later.'