Gladstone's quality of life gets put on the chopping block
Since the end of April, a group of concerned neighbors I belong to has been working towards a resolution for a 48-unit development being proposed off of Abernethy Court and Abernethy Lane.
When we first started our research, it seemed most were vehemently opposed to this development; there's been a lot of local backlash concerning the Webster Ridge Apartments that were just recently built, and the setbacks from homeowners' properties. Most of us were sorely inexperienced with local ordinances and municipal codes.
Since that time, we're much more keen on those local ordinances and codes, have a groundswell of support from our neighbors (close to 200 petitioners as of this e-mail) and have become much more organized; we are, at this point, an unofficial Community Planning Organization.
We've really come to learn quite a bit about the process of our local government, and some issues we think are rather glaring; the biggest hang up pertains to the property and its proximity to the nearby Olson Wetland, an inventoried Title 13 water feature. Our city planner, who is contracted out from Clackamas County, seemed to think a delineation report was not necessary, and took advantage of a relatively green Planning Commission to push things through. Gladstone adopted Metro's Title 13 standards in 2009, available in Gladstone Municipal Code article 17.25. GMC 17.27 is also applicable here. We've been in contact with an regional employee at the Department of State Lands who has explicitly stated our city planner should have required a delineation report.
We were a little disappointed during the Planning Commission hearings that, with close to 200 pages of counter-testimony, covering a broad range of topics, they seemed to be shoehorned into a decision by our city planner. Those topics include:
n Single-family construction in multi-family districts. Our city planner claimed this was not possible, despite unofficial testimony from Metro employees stating their abstained involvement on said issue, as well as our own municipal codes stating such was possible as an granted exception/variance (which the proximity to the wetland would warrant)
n The aforementioned issue with the Title 13 inventory; again, our city planner claimed no report needs to be done, and the developer should accept the maps as-is. However, Metro's GIS maps show that approximately 40 percent of the developer's land is in a Class B habitat or contains soils that, if disturbed, would affect nearby resources. There are setbacks from habitat zones involved, so accepting the maps as they are would essentially restrict the developer from building on the property.
n Traffic and parking issues. The apartments proposed are one-bedroom/studio layouts, with 75 spaces available on the property, which inevitably means additional cars and guests will overflow on the adjoining streets. Further complicating matters, the Trolley Trail, a multi-use path for pedestrians, cyclists, and people with disabilities, would face glaring safety issues. Precedence was set in 1981 for the tract of land the connector would pass through, with increased traffic for a proposed eight units being an issue. We asked for a traffic study to be performed, and this was overlooked.
n A connecting walking path to the apartments from the nearby Windsor neighborhood (this has since been recommended by the Planning Commission to be removed, a small consolation for our group).
n Inundated and aging infrastructure, especially water and sewer.
n Outdated fees charged by city: System Development Charges (SDCs) for this job would cost around $300K, but a similar development in Oregon City would run about $1.4 million. Gladstone is shooting itself in the foot by having sorely outdated SDCs, and developers are not having to pay their fair share to help the aforementioned need for improvement.
Since the Planning Commission's decision, we have filed an appeal with the county, and are preparing to state our case to our City Council, which has recently experienced a publicized shakeup and appointed two new members. We've since discovered bias from a planning commissioner, one who made some rather inflammatory public remarks, and alluded to our efforts with the development as a "sky is falling, mob mentality, with truth and reality being damned." This, along with issues of non-performance, has moved us to ask our City Council for this person's removal from the Planning Commission. We have received support from local watershed councils, members at the Department of State Lands, as well as Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to name a few. We are looking to hire an attorney for either written or oral testimony/support. For those of us closest to the issue, we really feel it's brought the community together, in a way that hasn't been experienced here in some time.
Our group fully understands that development is going to happen. We want to make sure, however, that developments are done the right way, and that inventoried resources like the Olson Wetland do not have further harm brought to them; the Rinearson Lake, which is at the confluence of Rinearson Creek and the Willamette River, was drained last week, after a 12-year effort to restore the banks of the creek bed to a more natural state. This development risks all the hard work and effort involved with that process, all for a cash grab.
City Council is scheduled to discuss this topic at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 2. You can find additional information online in the following links:
Gladstone Municipal Codes, Title 17: codepublishing.com/OR/
Gladstone Planning Commission Packets, specifically June 20 packets and correspondence:
Our GoFundMe and change.org petition sites, which contain a high-level overview of our endeavors thus far, as well as a video submitted by one of our group members of the wetland: gofundme.com/abernethy-apartment-complex-concerns; change.org/p/gladstone-city-council-protect-olson-wetland-and-our-gladstone-neighborhood-from-a-48-unit-apartment-complex
Steven Worsley is a resident of Gladstone.