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Envisioning improvements along Highway 43

by: Lori Hall Residents held roundtable discussions during a Sept. 29 meeting on what they would like to see in the future along Highway 43 and Willamette Falls Drive.

Less traffic congestion, more bike lanes and better walking paths are on top of West Linn residents' list of wanted improvements for the city.

More than 120 residents turned out for the city's visioning workshop Sept. 29 at Rosemont Ridge Middle School.

In an effort to shape West Linn's future growth and design, the city is in the process of seeking input on how residents see the Highway 43/Willamette Falls Drive corridor developing in the next 20 to 30 years.

At the Sept. 29 workshop, the city shared the information it has gathered so far and received more opinions and ideas from attendees.

"It's amazing how many people are getting involved," said Mayor John Kovach to the audience. "If you have a plan, you might get there. If we have a plan, perhaps we can do better. We want to be ahead of the curve on growth. This meeting is about you and what you'd like to see."

The area involved in this visioning process spans wider than just the two roads, Highway 43 and Willamette Falls Drive. It also includes neighborhoods and shopping centers, such as Robinwood shopping center, the Willamette neighborhood and the Bolton neighborhood.

'This is much more than those two major roads,' said Planning Director John Sonnen. 'Really, you're in the driver's seat.'

The city is using consultants Crandall Arambula to help direct the vision process. They specialize in city redevelopment. The consulting cost for this phase of the process is $25,000.

At the workshop, George Candrall and Don Arambula gave a presentation of what attributes make a city or neighborhood function.

Crandall said the ideal neighborhood looks like a circle, with business in the center and housing spreading out from the center, gradually decreasing in density. Using a network of bike paths, sidewalks and roads, residents would travel toward the center of the village to do their business, run errands and recreate.

Arambula said the vision would be to build on to the city's existing commercial centers to create small villages. He said the best villages contain employment, mass transit, a park, retail stores, streets and a wide range of housing.

Areas the consultants were looking at for the village concept include Bolton, the Willamette historical area, the property near the West Linn/Oregon City Arch Bridge and the Robinwood community.

At the workshop, after the presentation, residents broke out into small groups. Participants were asked to fill out a worksheet asking their level of support on various project ideas.

Alicia Tomasi said she attended the meeting because they are relatively new to the Bolton neighborhood having moved there a year and a half ago and wanted to know what was going on and being proposed.

Willamette resident Ron York expressed concern about access, bike and pedestrian paths and traffic.

Most residents spoke about transportation and the notion of more bike and pedestrian access.

Another area the city received a lot of positive feedback on was the idea of creating an esplanade along the Willamette River.

Sonnen said residents also seemed to like the vision of making the area near the arch bridge into a historical tourist attraction complete with a hotel.

The city will take all the information from previous neighborhood meetings, the online survey and the workshop, and identify the major themes.

The main supported ideas will be presented to the City Council during its Nov. 21 meeting. From there, if the council determines that the community wants significant change, it will start planning for amendments and growth. The consultants will do a rough feasibility study of the themes.

Sonnen said the city will likely post another refined survey online for residents in a few weeks.

"We want to give people another opportunity upon reflection to continue to support this," said Sonnen.