Rosemont Summit, Hidden Springs neighborhood associations may join hands

When the City Council discusses an ongoing effort to merge the Rosemont Summit and Hidden Springs neighborhood associations Aug. 4, a broader question will hover in the backdrop.

What role should neighborhood associations play as the city moves forward?

Where some believe the groups to be essential as an organized forum for residents, others see neighborhood associations as outdated and unnecessary.

“Neighborhood associations were created in the 1970s as gateways,” City Councilor Mike Jones said at a Jan. 6 work session. “And in my opinion they have become anachronistic gatekeepers. I think they bottleneck things more than they do good now, and they represent a very small group of people.”

Roberta Schwarz, a member of the Savanna Oaks neighborhood association, disagrees.

“Recently and in the past, I’ve seen neighborhood associations be able to talk directly to developers, and save everyone a lot of time and energy,” Schwarz said. “There should always be neighborhood associations and they should have a good, strong voice.”

The merging project, spearheaded by former Rosemont Summit president Dean Suhr and current Hidden Springs president Erik Van de Water, was first discussed back in January. The Rosemont Summit neighborhood association was disbanded in the fall of 2011 due to dwindling attendance numbers, and Suhr saw the merger as a way to re-ignite citizen engagement.

Neighborhood associations are generally referred to as “arms of the city,” designed to foster and encourage communication between residents and City Hall. In West Linn, activity varies between 11 neighborhood associations. Five associations — Bolton, Marylhurst, Robinwood, Savanna Oaks and Willamette — meet once each month, while others like Hidden Springs, Parker Crest and Skyline Ridge meet annually or as needed.

In proposing the merger, Suhr felt that Rosemont Summit and Hidden Springs fit naturally together as two neighborhoods that are almost entirely built out, without any forthcoming development issues that could affect residents.

In this particular case, Schwarz said such a move might be beneficial. But she doesn’t believe this should start a trend of other neighborhoods consolidating.

“Other neighborhood associations are very happy being their own entity,” Schwarz said. “Because of rivers and hills in West Linn, the neighborhoods really are their own separate entities. It’s good to have them have their own neighborhood association.”

Beyond providing a forum for communication with the city and developers, neighborhood associations also play a role in basic community building, Schwarz said.

“We’ve been here a dozen years — they give people a real sense of community,” Schwarz said. “It makes it so nice to live in this area, people get to know each other and a lot of it is through the neighborhood association.”

The potential merger will be further discussed at a Neighborhood Association Presidents group meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the community room at the TVFR Fire Station, 1860 Willamette Falls Drive.

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