Developer seeks annexation and zone change on property next to the Highlands

Both an Aug. 7 King City Planning Commission meeting and Aug. 21 City Council meeting were packed with people as interest has grown in a proposed development just south of the Highlands.

Steve Brown, the owner of Timberland Homes, which has constructed the Castle Oaks developments in the same area, is seeking to have 4.8 acres, located between 128th and 131st avenues south of Dickson Street, annexed into King City, with the zoning changed from Washington County R-15 (multi-family residential) to King City R-12 (12 residential units per acre).

The R-12 designation allows attached or detached homes, according to King City planner Keith Leiden. He added that there is a 35-foot height limit.

Dickson Street forms the southern boundary of the Highlands off 131st Avenue, and Highlands residents in particular have raised concerns about spill-over traffic from the development cutting through their neighborhood.

The Planning Commission voted 7 to 0 to recommend both the annexation and zone change following its public hearing, which included the reading of a letter from eight Highlands residents in support of the changes.

Brown spoke at two community meetings in February to describe the project and initially proposed seeking R-9 zoning and building 36 single, detached family homes instead of 50 to 60 apartments that could have been built with the original zoning left in place.

However, he later decided to go with a higher density that he thought would be more palatable to Washington County and Metro because of the necessity of having to meet Metro-dictated density within the urban growth boundary.

At both the Planning Commission and City Council meetings, people brought up issues that were not part of the annexation and zone change but had to do with an actual development if it occurs.

At the City Council meeting, people who spoke during the meeting did so outside of the public hearing, including Mary Mills, who has lived in the Highlands for three years, and said, "King City give me the impression of being one large project."

A man who lives on Jordan Way south of the proposed development, said, "Anything less than a 50-by-100 lot is unlivable… I live on a 50-by-100-foot lot, and I hear my neighbors' music and conversations, and some lots don't have adequate parking.

"Transportation is another issue - it's a half-mile to a bus, which is a major hike up a hill. This is mass housing and mass density and high density and isn't going to live up to what you think it's going to be."

Judith Baese, who lives on Dickson, said, "Most people I've talked to in the Highlands realize this property is going to be developed. Mr. Brown held two meetings, and we are grateful for that, but he said he was going for R-9 (nine residential units per acre). Then we found out he is getting R-12, which is high density."

Brown responded, "I would like to go with R-9 because it is a better fit for the community, but R-12 is easier to accomplish. Washington County and Metro would be more apt to approve the change. I never meant to deceive anybody."

A man in the audience said, "I resent Washington County and Metro dictating what a community should do."

Leiden explained that if the City Council approves the annexation and zone change, the developer will put together a plan, and there will be public notices of a Planning Commission meeting to hold a public hearing and vote on the project.

"The City Council will hear it only if there is an appeal of the Planning Commission decision," said Leiden, adding, "R-12 is the best we could do."

The ordinances to annex the property into King City and rezone it were introduced and read by title only at the council meeting.

At its Sept. 4 meeting, there will be no public hearing, and the ordinances will be read by title only before the council votes on them.

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