Public hearing continued until September

by: CITY OF WILSONVILLE - The proposed site of Grande Point at Villebois is labeled a future study area in this map of the Villebois Master Plan. The property has been vacant for nearly a decade now, but a proposal to allow development of new homes on the site of the former Living Enrichment Center will have to wait a little bit longer.

A proposed amendment to the Villebois Master Plan that could see the future construction of 113 new homes on property currently labeled the “future study area” was pushed back at least another month after the Wilsonville Planning Commission was unable to reach consensus on the matter at an Aug. 14 public hearing at Wilsonville City Hall.

The hangup centered around two main issues: the type of parks in the new development, which will be called Grande Point at Villebois, and the number and size of its residential lots.

The latter issue, in particular, was debated at length in spite of city staff members’ insistence that approving an amendment to allow future development is not the same as approving the specific details of that development.

“One hundred thirteen is a number because they have to put something in there,” Assistant City Attorney Barbara Jacobson told commissioners. “But you, in your decision, if that makes you uncomfortable, you can make certain you’re not recommending that number of lots.”

According to a city staff report prepared by Associate Planner Dan Pauly, the amendment would apply to 43 acres of property in the area that once was home to the Living Enrichment Center, a New Thought church that grew from the late 1970s from a membership of a few dozen to a high of over 4,000 around the turn of the century.

The church collapsed in 2004 amidst a multi-million dollar financial scandal that saw co-founder Edward Morrissey sentenced to a federal prison term. Since then the property has been vacant and the former church building lay in ruins. It was demolished earlier this year as Polygon Northwest solidified earlier plans to develop the site.

According to the staff report, the proposed master plan amendment “preliminarily identify 12.5 acres for development of larger single-family lots” out of a total of 43 acres included in a master plan amendment application submitted by developer Polygon Northwest. An additional 23 acres, including wetlands included in a significant resource overlay zone, is designated as open space. A further 7.1 acres would be used for public rights of way including streets, sidewalks, and landscape strips and medians, as well as alignment of the streets, the report states.

An exact street alignment would be identified in the future when an actual development plan is created and submitted to the city.

However, it was 0.4 acres in the Polygon Northwest application devoted to pocket parks and “linear greens” that really seemed to put the brakes on proceedings.

“One of my biggest concerns is that there is not a neighborhood park in that area,” said Commissioner Marta McGuire. “I feel it’s not going to be consistent with the rest of the master plan.”

There are, she added, “tons of common areas and opportunities to gather” in the rest of Villebois. The proposal showing less than a half-acre of parks, she continued, would not be totally mitigated by placing the 23 acres of open space under the same label.

“They can gather in the woods,” McGuire said. “But they may not have the same opportunity to gather. The open spaces are different than neighborhood parks. The parks are a common place for neighbors to gather, and I think that’s a different experience.”

The twin issues of parks and the number of proposed lots dominated debate for several hours, prompting commissioners to eventually vote to continue the hearing to the September meeting. At that time, commissioners will re-open the public hearing and try to reach a decision.

Polygon Northwest President Fred Gast tried to persuade commissioners to move forward last week, but was unable to do so.

“Our proposal was based on input we received,” Gast said. “We didn’t come into a vacuum here. A lot of the input you’ve received, through conversation (with) the city, we’ve certainly received also.”

Gast noted that the development, if approved, would “reflect the large lot band of the spectrum,” in that it would consist of standard, large and estate-sized lots, under guidelines in the existing master plan.

“This is a unique site,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can do and would like to do, and we have made movement since the last work session we had with you folks.”

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