A six-lot residential subdivision in Metzger was approved Friday after a contentious hearing earlier this year.
The Crestline subdivision, north of Cedarcrest Street and west of 80th Avenue, is roundly opposed by neighbors, many of whom argued at the Jan. 19 hearing in Hillsboro that it would negatively impact their quality of life and disrupt the natural environment. But David Doughman, the land use hearings officer assigned to the case, issued a 63-page written order Friday in which he acknowledged some misgivings about the project's effect on wildlife habitat but nonetheless approved it with conditions.
Notably, Doughman found that a tree removal permit is not needed for the development, as opponents argued. He also found that a change of plans to remove a stormwater facility from a defined habitat area exempted the project from certain approval criteria.
While Doughman wrote that it was "tempting" to try to reduce the impact on designated wildlife habitat by ordering the applicant to reduce the size of the subdivision, he concluded, "I do not find the Code provides me with authority (particularly any clear and objective authority) to do so."
Doughman wrote that opponents argued "quite persuasively" that he could not determine that the development "will not seriously interfere with the preservation of fish and wildlife areas and habitat," noting that "a reasonable person could easily find" that it would, since 70 percent of the existing designated wildlife habitat — about six-tenths of an acre — will be lost. He wrote that "common sense" leads him to believe that it will.
But again, he cited his obligation as a hearings officer to follow the letter of the development code, writing that while he believes the developer has not satisfied a section of the code stating that a project should not "seriously interfere" with habitat preservation, he also doesn't believe he has the authority to apply that section to the application.
The part of Metzger where the proposed subdivision would be built is in unincorporated Washington County, so the land use decision was made by the county. It was originally treated as an application to be approved or denied administratively, but outcry from neighbors, who sent more than 100 letters to the county opposing the application, prompted the county to schedule a land use hearing.
The parcel of land slated for development is 2.54 acres in size, but 1.35 acres of that area are marked as "natural resource areas" that would not be developed under the application. The six residential lots on the remaining 1.19 acres would support single-family houses under the plan submitted to Washington County.
Doughman's decision can be appealed. The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals in Salem would consider any request to overturn the decision in whole or in part.
Mary Elizabeth McAndrew told The Times that neighbors opposing the project have organized as a group calling itself "Citizens for Livability." She has started an online fundraising page on Generosity.com, which has collected $1,465 as of Friday afternoon, to "save Ash Creek Grove," a stand of mature trees that would be removed to make way for Venture's development.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times