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Council debates controversial staging area for LOT project

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Eliminating use of residential lot would further delay project, contractors say


TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Construction of the main LOT plant has been ongoing since 2013 but more recent pipeline work on adjacent streets and use of street rights-of-way and an empty residential lot has pushed neighbors into lobbying the City to fine the contractors for what they term violations on their contracts. Just as the clock struck 10 p.m. and the City’s audio-visual systems began their automatic shut down Monday night, the West Linn City Council arrived at a general consensus to approve a temporary use permit for a Mapleton Drive staging site affiliated with the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) project.

A final ruling won’t come until Monday, Dec. 21, after additional conditions of approval have been finalized by the council. Though each councilor expressed significant reservations and frustrations with the handling of the staging site, ultimately their rulings came down to a simple matter of time.

If the council was anxious to conclude its meeting in a timely fashion, it was all the more driven to alleviate the nuisance described by neighbors of the site on 3777 Mapleton Drive.

“What’s the best way out of this, regardless of how we got into it?” City Councilor Bob Martin said. “For me, that would be to allow continuation for this site for the next 21 days. ... It’s a horrible choice to have to make, but I come down on getting this done as quickly as possible.”

The application before the council was submitted by Frank Coluccio Construction and CESNW, both contractors for the LOT raw and finished water pipeline project. For several months, the contractors have been using a privately-owned 1-acre site on Mapleton Drive for the staging of construction activities and equipment storage but neglected to obtain a permit for doing so.

As city staff noted in a summary of the application, “The applicant asserts locating a staging area at this site shortens the time required to complete construction of the new water line,” while also reducing truck trips. The applicants applied for a one-year temporary use permit, but most of the work is expected to be completed by early January.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Residents of the Robinwood streets surrounding the water treatment plant construction have been vocal regarding how the staging and storage of equipment around their homes is disrupting their lives.

At issue was the fact that the site was already in use before the contractors applied for a permit.

“I do apologize if there was some misunderstanding,” said Jeff Argov, a representative from Coluccio. “We were under the impression that we were covered under blanket permitting (for the project). ... If there was a miscommunication, we apologize and want to get it right.”

Beyond issues with noise around the site, matters were further complicated by the “significant” trees located on the property. Mitigation measures to ensure their survival were outlined in a report from City Arborist Michael Perkins, but he noted in an email that “there are no guarantees ... If this post-construction mitigation doesn’t work, we may not see the results of the damage for several years.”

“When I walked the site, it was very clear that large trucks are driving up against the trees,” Mayor Russ Axelrod said. “When I look at the protection zones for some of the tree areas, I’m not convinced you can even drive trucks there and do the activities planned. If that’s the case, is the approach going to be to continue to operate in violation of the tree code?”

The trees are likely to be removed eventually anyway, pointed out CESNW representative Tony Weller, when the property is developed at a future date. Argov, meanwhile, said truck movement at the site could not be altered without in turn rendering the site useless.

Angela Hajihashemi, a resident who lives directly behind the staging site, said that the disturbance caused in the neighborhood far exceeded that of a normal staging site.

“There are heavy, repetitive noises once every 10 minutes in my home,” she said. “Is that ‘staging’? Something constantly moving, constantly going on? Where does this stop? We have a violation. It’s not staging and it’s not storage.”

Other residents said the project continued to lack oversight from the city.

“On Mapleton and Kenthorpe, we have been left with supervision of the project in many ways,” Gwen Sieben said. “Why do we have codes if we don’t enforce them?”

In the end, Axelrod said the priority should be “to get this project done as soon as we can with the least amount of impact for residents,” but he added that the City should move toward fining LOT or Coluccio for violations of tree code and water resource area provisions.

While the public hearing was closed Monday, the council will take a final vote Monday after finalizing the conditions of approval.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..