TROUTDALE - Members of the City Council were met with applause Tuesday night after they voted 5-2 in favor of a settlement agreement that could limit the traffic flowing through the Sedona Park area.
'It's not that easy to sit here and make these kinds of judgments,' said Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer, who voted in favor of the settlement. 'You have to do a balancing act here.'
Residents fought against a proposed 19-unit condo development in the area because it could generate as many as 118 car trips a day through the enclosed 51-home neighborhood.
'There seems to be a disconnect here,' said Matthew Wand, a member of the city's budget committee. 'The government wants high density development, but residents don't want it in their neighborhoods.'
The settlement resolves a lawsuit the developer, D.A. Grey, and Multnomah County filed against the city and calls for construction of nine single family homes at the site.
Councilors Rob Canfield and Chris Gorsek were the only two councilors to vote no on the settlement because approval of the agreement also means the city must make three payments totaling $300,000 to the developer to cover lost revenues and attorney fees.
'The problem I have with this settlement is if we had followed our own rules and regulations in the first place, we wouldn't have had this,' Gorsek said, referring to a land-use decision that left the parcel landlocked in the first place.
Prior to the their decision on the settlement, Wand urged the councilors to take a close look at how the city got into a position of paying a developer to protect a group of residents and how to ensure similar situations are avoided in the future.
'When the city gets hit this hard, what is important is what you learn from it,' he said.
'The good news is I think we have learned something from it,' Councilor Barbara Kyle said of the situation.
Even some of the councilors who voted for the agreement in support of the Sedona Park residents had mixed feelings about the settlement.
'This situation is particularly painful,' said Councilor Dave Ripma. 'It's going to cost us a lot of money, but it's something we sort of got ourselves into.'
Things could have ended very differently if the property owner was unwilling to talk, he said.
'You better practice what you say,' Thalhofer said, adding that every time he campaigned for office, livability was one of the things he stressed. 'The idea of protecting neighborhoods is very important for some members of the City Council.'
Council President Doug Daoust agreed.
With the settlement agreement, the council essentially 'bought single-family homes' and 'a lower safety concern for (the Sedona Park) neighborhood,' he said.
Despite the somewhat unusual circumstances that led to the lawsuit and subsequent settlement, a development agreement that limits the impacts on other areas is not unheard of.
'The concept of buying development rights is one that has been around for a long time and has been done in all kinds of instances, so that is not something that's unusual,' said Tim Erwert, Hillsboro city manager.
Erwert, who has worked for Hillsboro for 35 years and served as the city's planning director and manager, said local jurisdictions often buy out development rights to reduce the impacts on neighboring properties.
In Hillsboro, that has meant working with developers to buy land for parks.
'If the city bought the property from the developer … it would be somewhere around $600,000 and $1 million an acre … so actually, based on the prices we see out here, that sounds like a good deal,' Erwert said.
After approving the settlement agreement Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to remove its previous development stipulations, which required the developer to find an access other than Edgefield Avenue.
The vote essentially reverses the council's decision, making the Planning Commission's June 21 decision to allow the condos valid, but only with the understanding that the condominiums would not actually be built.
'We do not intend to build 19 units,' said Ed Sullivan, an attorney representing developer D.A. Grey. 'We expect to honorably keep the covenants we've entered into.'
Plans for the development, which were submitted last week, will go through the normal review process. City Council will have until June 1 to approve the plans for the nine single family homes at the site, north of the Sedona Park neighborhood.
If they fail to do so, Grey will be able to build the original 19 units the Troutdale Planning Commission approved for the site.