RAU LAND -- Council rejects original proposal; new one scales back number of units

After months of discussions and heated debate, the Forest Grove Planning Commission on Monday rejected plans for a high-density housing development along Gales Creek.

The move, which was expected, allows the developer to submit a new plan aimed at addressing concerns raised by neighbors, elected officials and city staff members.

The 'Gales Creek Terrace' project has vexed the developer, LDC Design Group of Hillsboro, for nearly two years.

The original proposal called for putting 122 housing units on the 20-acre parcel, owned by Ron and Wanda Rau, which lies just west of B Street on the north side of Gales Creek.

The new proposal, dubbed 'Plan B' by LDC, reduces the number of homes to 99 and leaves more undeveloped land near the creek.

Ryan O'Brien, a representative of LDC, acknowledged that knocking 23 houses out of the proposal will make it more difficult to recover development costs.

'It will be tough, very tough,' he said. 'But we've got to do what we've got to do. It was clear that the city didn't want us to put any houses on the area right next to the creek.'

LDC's original plans located housing lots in areas that have been shown to flood regularly. O'Brien and others had argued that they could protect the homes through significant grading of the property's slopes and the use of fill.

Neighbors and city staff members, however, raised concerns about those plans, as well as the proposal to put high-density townhouses directly adjacent to existing large single-family lots.

The new plan seeks to address that by putting the town houses in the center of the development and surrounding them with single family homes.

To make up for the loss of land near the creek, LDC has increased the number of townhouses it's proposing. The original plan called for 48 'attached units.' Plan B proposes 54 townhouse units.

'We want to do single-family housing,' said O'Brien, 'but at some point we can't do single-family on the land we have left.'

While LDC has showed neighbors and city staff members their preliminary plans, they have not yet officially submitted a new development application.

Once that is done, the matter will come back before the planning commission, which will first need to review its recommended zoning for the lower half of the property.

LDC had asked the commission to zone most of the area for high-density housing. The commission, however, recommended that the City Council zone it for low-density single-family homes.

Jon Holan, the city's development director, said his staff hasn't had the chance to determine whether the low-density zoning would work with LDC's scaled-back plans.

'It may be possible that the development could not be done with the planning commission's recommended zoning,' he said.

That issue, as well as continued questions over the slope of the property, will likely be discussed when LDC revised plans are officially submitted and come back to the planning commission.

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