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Neighbors question controversial apartment complex

Proposed A+O Apartment needs city approval to build. Neighbors say plans are too risky

Photo Credit: ADAM WICKHAM - Tamara Alva and Jill Warren are fighting to prevent a large apartment complex from being built on sensitive wetland in Metzger. Neighbors are concerned the project will impact flooding in other parts of town.Dozens of concerned neighbors packed a Tigard City Council meeting this week, concerned about a controversial apartment complex planned for a quiet Metzger neighborhood.

A+O Apartments — a 215-unit apartment complex — is planned for Southwest Oak Street, in incorporated Tigard.

In order to build the project, property owners need the Tigard City Council to make a slew of changes and allowances, including allowing the developers to build on a protected wetland.

“We are keenly interested in seeing the plan implemented,” said Don Hanson, a developer with OTAK.

The project would transform 11 acres of property near Lincoln Tower into a large apartment complex. The land is bordered by Ash Creek and a small unnamed tributary which meet up with Fanno Creek a mile downstream, said Gary Pagenstecher, an associate planner with the city.

Tigard Mayor John L. Cook said Tuesday that if the development meets a set of criteria, the Council’s hands are tried.

“(With this type of decision) we have to put on our robes and wigs and are supposed to only say whether it follows the law or not,” he told a packed crowd at Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s different from all the other things that we do, where we can talk to neighbors and get a gut feel about how we feel about issues.”

Whether it meets city standards is open for debate. Neighbors have raised a series of concerns about the project, from increased traffic along Oak Street to issues with parking and potentially increased flooding problems upstream. A petition has begun circulating online, hoping to kill the project before development begins.

Flooding and wetland issues

About six acres of the 11 acre property is made up of sensitive wetlands. Property owners have asked the city to remove a half-acre designation of wetland from the city’s comprehensive plan, in order to build a portion of the project on the wetland.

If approved, the apartment complex would continue into about a half-acre of the wetland.

Metzger has had flooding problems for years, and neighbors worry that a large development in the flood plain will pour even more water into an already flood-prone area.

Developers have said plans are in the works to plant 8,000 trees and shrubs around the wetland and in Hillsboro in mitigation. To make up for the half-acre of wetland impacted by the development.

Opponents of impacting the wetland have argued that planners should build taller buildings on the developable land, rather than build out into the sensitive wetland.

The area flooded significantly during the 1996 floods, and Metzger residents say it’s only a matter of time before another flood of that size strikes.

“We have dug ditches three feet deep around my home and we still have a water problem,” said Tamara Alva, who lives upstream from the development. “This (wetland) is the only runoff from Taylors Ferry Road to the bottom of the hill … There are serious water problems over there and I can’t see this is going to help much.”

Parking and congestion

Under city code, the apartment is required to have 302 parking spaces, Pagenstecher said, but developers say they plan on building only 278 parking spaces. City plans call for additional parking spaces to accommodate visitors and families with more than one car. Though developers say they do plan to install 16 parallel parking stalls on Southwest Oak Street.

The development would also install a sidewalk in front of the property, but not along the rest of Oak Street, which is largely without sidewalks.

The project is opposed by Tigard First, a local political action group.

“You are being asked to do three things," Steve Bintliff, Tigard First's co-founder told the City Council on Tuesday. "No. 1, approve a comprehensive plan amendment, No. 2, modify the 100 year floodplain and No. 3, agree to an exception to development code rules (for parking). By their own admission, the developer has said that without those these approvals, this doesn’t pencil out. You don’t have a responsibility to their return on investment. You have a responsibility to Tigard taxpayers.”

Neighbors worry that an estimated 300 cars on tiny Oak Street will bring unprecedented congestion to the area.

Dorothy Cofield, an attorney representing a group of concerned neighbors said that the city should have no trouble denying the development’s requests.

“This development does not meet your code,” Cofield said.

City Councilors issued a laundry list of questions for developers and city staff. Answers to those questions will be given at a City Council meeting in February. The Council is expected to vote on the proposed changes in March.

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