April open houses let annexed residents raise concerns and needs

Annexed residents of Forest Grove are getting a chance to talk about street improvements and sewer line extensions at open houses hosted by the city's Public Works Department this month.

The first open house, on Tuesday, April 9, drew about 25 property owners from 26th Avenue, Hawthorne Street and Raymond Street, said Rob Foster, Forest Grove's director of public works.

"We got a lot of positive feedback toward working with the city," Foster said.

The second open house, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, will focus on residents of Willamina Avenue, Firwood Lane, Thatcher Road, Watercrest Road and Oakcrest Drive.

Traffic and sewers were popular topics, he said, along with the quality of people's streets.

Many annexed landowners have complained their streets weren't annexed along with their property, but remained in the hands of the county, which offers little to no maintenance or repair.

One option would be for the city to take over the streets in their current "rural" state, which simply includes shoulders, ditches and drive culverts — no sidewalks, Foster said. That would cost property owners virtually nothing and the city might at least do a better job than the county of repairing potholes.

The problem is that the city currently will only take control of a road when it is improved to costly urban standards, Foster said. But following a recent forced annexation, the city is reconsidering that position, he said, depending on how well the county would upgrade the rural roads' asphalt surfaces before handing them over.

A second option is for landowners to help pay for a more costly "urban" road, which includes curbs, gutters, storm drain inlets, street trees, sidewalks, streetsweeping and potential leaf pickup.

The problem is that such an upgrade could cost as much as $450 per linear foot. Property owners would split the bill, but the ultimate cost would depend on a combination of city assistance and how each property is assessed.

A weighted formula for assessment, for example, would consider the amount of a property's road-front footage, overall acreage and zoning density, Foster said. But the city council needs to decide on the weighting of those factors before public works employees can calculate the cost.

Another problem is that an urban road would need 66 feet of right-of-way from side to side, while the current, rural roads have only 50 feet. Property owners on each side would need to give up eight feet of their front yard to create an urban road.

"I generally felt most of them would be willing to dedicate their property," Foster said, although he notes people might change their minds if the city's right-of-way suddenly went up to their doorsteps.

The city is looking into possibilities of money from various programs that might help offset the costs for residents willing to chip in for an urban road.

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