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Neighbors, planners spar over edited testimony

Members of the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association are accusing city planners of censoring written testimony they submitted concerning proposed zoning changes in their neighborhood.

In an online blog and emails, BMNA board member Margaret Davis and others says staff at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability removed critical remarks from their testimony before reprinting it in a roundup of public comments about the Mixed Use Zone Projects.

"I worry that those comments — and others submitted — may have gone straight to the round file instead of informing the big decisions," says BMNA board member Margaret Davis.

The document is labeled MUZ Discussion Draft Comments List 12-16-15. It was distributed at a public meeting on the plan.

But BPS public information officer Eden Dabbs says the document was not intended to be a complete verbatim record of all testimony. Instead, it was meant to be a summary of themes and issues.

"There seems to be a misunderstanding by the BWNA about the nature of the comments document they are referring to," says Dabbs.

According to Dabbs, the document was intended for bureau staff, not third-party decision-makers, such as the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the City Council. She says all testimony and comments will eventually be posted on the BPS website.

A comparison of the original testimony and BPS document shows several critical comments were removed while some comments praising the planning process were left in.

For example, testimony was removed that the BWNA board "strongly" opposes the Beaumont Village commercial center on Northeast Fremont Street being zoned CM-2, which allows four-story buildings.

Also deleted was the board's argument that CM-2 zones must be served be "well-served" frequently transit service, while the current TriMet bus line is not a frequent service line. The board believes Fremont is "poorly served" by transit, and says TriMet has indicated it will not be improved.

The board believes Beaumont Village should be zoned CM-1, which limits building heights to three stories. The reprinted testimony still says that, but does not say the board "strongly" opposes the CM-2 zoning or that TriMet will not be improving transit on Fremont.

At the same time, the document retained board praise for proposing apartments more than 500 feet from frequent transit routes be required to provide off street parking.

Davis says she plans to bring the issue up before the City Council when she testifies on the recommended Comprehensive Plan update on Wednesday. The Mixed Use Zone Project is scheduled to be adopted by the council after the update to help implement it.

Davis worries that other testimony submitted on the project may have been edited before being added to the compilation, too.

You can read the blog post at portlandlandmatters.blogspot.com.

A comparison of the original and reprinted testimony prepared by Davis can be read at here.