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Eastmoreland wrestles with zoning contradiction

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Although this Notice of Public Hearing sign, concerning 3058 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard and facing S.E. Moreland Lane, at the back of the lot that a developer wants to split in two, was knocked off its post - neighbors make sure it is still readable.Eastmoreland neighbors – especially those who live off S.E. Moreland Lane – say they’re really troubled about Everett Custom Homes, Inc.’s, plan to tear down the 1959 ranch-style home at 3058 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard, and replace it with two mini-mansions. At the heart of the matter is a zoning issue.

In October, the company’s president, Victor E. Remmers, filed for a hearing to provide an amendment with City of Portland zoning, to change the property’s designation from R7 to R5 through a Minor Land Division – thus creating two parcels.

Remmer’s request was based upon the current City Zoning Map for the area, which shows the property to be R7 – yet the 1980 Portland Comprehensive Plan shows it as R5, and that is also considered an official zoning document of the City of Portland. If it already is R5, of course, no hearing would have been necessary.

However, a City of Portland Land Use hearing was set for January 15. And THE BEE was there.

“What I find troubling,” said Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) Board Member Kimberly Koehler, “Is that the City staff report recommended approval of the zone change request [from R7 to R5] before any testimony has been heard.”

THE BEE is aware that this sort of recommendation is common – but what’s interesting about this one is that it means that the City of Portland apparently still considers the property to be zoned R7, as does the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, and indeed as apparently does developer Remmers.

As Hearing Officer Greg Frank brought the inquiry to order in downtown Portland on the 15th, Koehler told us he looked surprised to see the room filled with some 100 ENA neighbors, along with attorneys for both sides. “Other staff members drifted in to see, for themselves, the number of people who came to the hearing.”

Those speaking in favor of the report recommending approval of the zoning change were the city staffer who contributed to the report, the developer’s attorney, and a traffic engineer hired by Everett Custom Homes.

ENA President Robert McCullough led off the neighborhood speakers in opposition, which also included Land Use Committee Chair Rod Merrick, and ENA Board of Directors members Bud Oringdulph, Kurt Krause, and Kimberly Koehler.

Other ENA speakers included Joanne Carlson, Catherine Mushel, Duniway PTA Co-President Kathleen Taylor, as well as Maria Baker – who brought up issues of architectural green space, and livability.

And five members of a newly-formed group calling themselves “Friends of Moreland Lane” decried potential issues of traffic safety on their alley-wide cul-de-sac, which runs behind the proposed project.

“I raised the critical issue,” ENA President Robert McCullough told THE BEE, “Which is the change of zoning from R7 to R5 [in the 1980 Comprehensive Plan]. I went back to our neighborhood association archives and read the minutes, notes, and correspondence to the City Council and Planning Bureau from 1978 through 1981.

“I testified that I could not find a single mention of such a zone change,” McCullough said. “We hold that this section of Eastmoreland was never down-zoned [from R7 to R5].”

The ENA Land Use Chair, architect Rod Merrick, unfurled a map that showed how many lots in Eastmoreland could potentially be split in the future, if this zoning change were to be approved – thus setting a precedent for doing so elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Merrick pointed out that the current City Zoning Map shows the property as R7; yet the 1980 Portland Comprehensive Plan does show it as R5.

Koehler informed THE BEE that Remmers is also basing his request for the property to be changed to R5 zoning by arguing that this part of Eastmoreland is designated to be R5 in the new Portland Comprehensive Plan currently under discussion around the city, but which has yet to be finalized.

“We remain convinced that the R-5 designation [in the 1980 Comprehensive Plan] for the strip of elegant homes opposite Reed College is a clerical error that needs to be weeded out of the Comprehensive Plan,” Koehler added.

Hearing Officer Frank allowed written comments to be submitted until January 22. Soon thereafter, a decision is to be rendered.

“If the decision goes against us,” McCullough said, “If it’s not in our favor, we will take this to the Portland City Council. If defeated there, we will go to Land Use Board of Appeals.”