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Single family homes dissolve into a pipe dream

Five new homes that were proposed for Williams Road will not be constructed

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JODI WEINBERGER - A widened gravel road and a retaining wall are the only markers of 5 single family homes that were supposed to be built on this property.A developer who had planned to build five single-family homes on Northeast Williams Road was given the OK on Tuesday, Jan. 20, to abandon the proposal and return the zoning to a single oversized lot.

The 2004 approval of a subdivision for the 2.8-acre property at 425 N.E. Williams Road came with many directives from the city to upgrade the site with water lines, curbing, sidewalks, and storm water facilities, projects that all became unfeasible following the economic crash in 2008.

If completed, the property would have been built up with six homes, including an existing home that still stands on the property, and two public streets.

But all that was constructed before money ran out was a sanitary sewer line and a long retaining stone wall that reaches 10-feet high at some points.

After fruitlessly searching for buyers, the property owner decided the best course of action would be to vacate the subdivision, returning the property to its pre-2004 state.

“We were looking at trying to find buyers that could possibly come in and complete the project, but it was futile,” said Dale Burkholder, the agent for the property owner. “But everyone that came in that was contacted said that this was upside down.”

Burkholder estimates the lots, which were marketed as "premium view" with Mt. Hood, could have fetched $150,000 each before the recession. He said the property owners probably lost in excess of $300,000 in trying to develop the land.

A public hearing on the application to vacate the subdivision was held on Nov. 24 and residents in the Powell Valley Neighborhood Association spoke in favor of the plan.

Under the conditions of the vacations, the property owner will be turning over the sewer easements to the city and installing a safety fence on the retaining wall.

Fortunately for neighbors, the land now doesn't look all that different than it did in 2004. The gravely driveway leading up to the existing home was widened and some of the property was razed, but otherwise the city staff said the residents' property values won't be negatively impacted by this decision.

“The benefit of returning is that they no longer have the responsibility of providing improvements for lots that they are no longer going to be building on,” said Jim Wheeler, Gresham’s senior development planner. “If they wanted to develop in the future, they would have to come back in and go through the process again.”

As far as planning decisions go, vacating a subdivision is relatively uncommon, Wheeler said, but the circumstances under which its happening is unfortunately not unique.

“They don’t have the money to try to continue to develop, so they’re just going to walk and get it back to where it was,” Wheeler said.

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