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Staff looks at expanding city's downtown core, increasing safety, accessibility

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CITY OF SANDY - Proposed concepts comprising the Pleasant Street Master Plan include burying utility lines in the area, realigning Alt Avenue with Shelley Avenue and integrating some kind of public art into the neighborhood to make it more appealing.The city of Sandy is in the preliminary stages of its Pleasant Street Master Plan and seeking public input. Last week, the city sent out links to two surveys, one regarding the master plan and one about the walkability study it is conducting simultaneously. The long-term hope of the city is to expand its core by making Pleasant Street more accessible from downtown, therefore connecting facilities like the proposed Sandy Community Campus to the Sandy Public Library.

Emma Porricolo, downtown planner for the city, said the plan is to create a "hub in the community."

The plan includes moving utility lines in the area underground, realigning Alt Avenue with Shelley Avenue and integrating some kind of public art into the neighborhood to make it more appealing. Staff also plans to make the downtown sidewalks more ADA accessible, touting the three main goals of "safety, access and connection."

Of all of those proposed plans, the most controversial, Porricolo noted, is the realignment, which if completed could affect both Clackamas County Bank and Leathers Fuels.

"Right now we're at the stage of just getting public input. They're only concepts, and we're doing all this outreach to get community input," Porricolo said, adding that both Clackamas County Bank and Leathers Fuels "are aware of the concept and that nothing is set in stone."

Clackamas County Bank declined to comment on the plan at this time.

Lila Leathers, owner of Leathers Fuels, told The Post she has appreciated that city staff has been "very open" about the proposed plan.

"Any time we have a question, they'll answer it," Leathers said.

Leathers Fuels has been in Sandy since the 1940s, and if the proposed realignment plan came to fruition, it would have to close its Proctor Boulevard location and move. Leathers explained that if this plan moved forward, Leathers Fuels would remain in Sandy. The company has no plans to contest the realignment.

"We've got a lot of fine customers, and we want to keep those folks," she noted. "These things happen and you do the best you can. ... I think traffic will always be there. It's just a matter of changing (customers') buying habits and where they go. I think they'll still come find us. Our intent would be to build a new facility before we close."

Overall, however inconvenient, Leathers sees the goal of the Pleasant Street Master Plan in a positive light.

"I think it's a good idea to take (the pressure) off of Pioneer and Proctor," she said. "It's nice to have that idea that businesses will be on Pleasant Street rather than the arterials. ... It will be interesting to see the plans mature."

The advisory committee for both projects comprises multiple downtown business and nonprofit organization owners, including Clackamas County Bank, the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce director, Oregon Trail School District staff members and representatives from Sandy City Council, the city's Economic Development and Planning departments.

With the project still in the very early stages, the city is working with a consultant to estimate the cost of the realignment and proposed burying of utility lines.

In the future Porricolo said she plans to hold more interactive events to engage the community in the project and offer visual representations of the proposed concepts, such as pop-up mappings.

She hopes the surveys and events will not only generate input but also better inform the community of the city's intentions.

So far, one of the biggest misconceptions Porricolo has heard is the idea that the Pleasant Street Master Plan is meant to reroute traffic away from Proctor Boulevard.

"It's not about rerouting traffic, but expanding the downtown core," she explained. "Part of the reason we're looking to Pleasant Street as an (extension of downtown) is its lack of traffic."

She added that people "are confused about the alignment (also)."

"I think people don't quite understand the reasoning or the importance of it. The realignment is really a way to create easier access, (and) it's kind of a tricky intersection."

The surveys are open until March 1. To participate, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/dwtnsandywalkability and www.surveymonkey.com/r/pleasantstmp. The city will hold an open house at 5:30 p.m. March 14, in the Sandy Public Library Community Room, 38980 Proctor Blvd., to discuss the project further.

"I really did want to hear from both sides," Porricolo said. "I'm here and willing and open to talk to the public."

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