Neighbors suspicious of Darby Ridge delay
Some say election may provide a more friendly council for efforts to build on Gabbert Butte
In a unanimous 6-0 vote, Gresham city councilors approved a developer's request to put on hold an appeal hearing regarding an 82-home subdivision until Feb. 20.
Council President Shane Bemis was unable to attend the Thursday, Oct. 27, city council meeting.
The property owner and developer of Darby Ridge, located on Gresham's steeply sloped Gabbert Butte, requested the delay last week 'so that the applicant can explore other options,' according to a letter from Attorney Ed Sullivan.
One of those options is to sell the 38 acres slated for development to Metro Regional Government. The delay gives Metro a chance to pass its bond on the Tuesday, Nov. 7, ballot that if approved would raise $227 million for open space acquisition over the next 20 years.
Residents in the Gresham Butte Neighborhood Association opposed the development, which is northwest of Regner and Butler roads. The project would create 82 homes selling for between $450,000 and $600,000. It also calls for reshaping 40 percent of the butte by applying as much as 30 feet of fill to make the steep slopes buildable.
Planning commissioners - citing code interpretations that differed from those made by a previous commission - agreed with neighbors. They denied the project in September, finding issue with everything from tree-removal to how residents would get to the property.
The applicant appealed the ruling to Gresham city councilors, who held a four-plus hour hearing Tuesday, Oct. 17. But councilors decided they needed more time to make a decision, especially one that could affect future code interpretations.
Gabbert Butte neighbor Paul Masulis said he was disappointed but not surprised by the council's delay. Although he's glad councilors didn't rush to approve it, he and other neighbors got the impression during the Oct. 17 hearing that four of seven councilors wanted to deny the appeal.
Now neighbors suspect the developer wants the February delay to allow a 'friendlier' council a crack at approving the appeal, Masulis said. Two councilors are not running for re-election and a third is running against the mayor for Gresham's mayoral seat on November ballot.
Neighbors sent e-mails to councilors and the applicant requesting councilors delay the decision no later than December. By then the election would be over. If the Metro ballot passed and if the developer was seriously negotiating with Metro, then the council could delay a decision until February. Otherwise a delay is unnecessary because Metro won't have the money to purchase the property, Masulis said.
Councilor Jacquentte McIntire said that wasn't the agreement councilors made with the applicant last week when the developer and property owner requested the delay. 'The applicant allowing the extension shows a willingness to work with the community,' she said.
Plus there's no guarantee that even if Metro's bond passes money would be used to buy the Gabbert Butte property.
'We can hope,' McIntire said.