Here's my response to the Gresham Outlook's Nov. 21 article, “Troutdale negotiates homes, not condos”. This is my opinion only, and not necessarily that of the Troutdale City Council. The city council did vote 4-2 (I voted no) in favor of a proposed $300,000 settlement with developers of the Tyson’s Place parcel near Sedona Park. Contrary to your article, the proposed settlement isn’t “to make up for the loss in revenue created by limiting the number of units at the site”. The proposed settlement is on the table because of the city council’s land use decision (I voted no) in August to landlock the Tyson’s Place property.
According to the proposed settlement agreement, the city will pay developer D.A. Grey $300,000 in full settlement for its claims for attorney fees, costs and damages at LUBA and Circuit Court. In return, the city will agree to request a voluntary remand of its August land use decision currently on appeal by D.A. Grey and Multnomah County, and waive any City application fees for a new 9-lot single family subdivision.
The article quotes Troutdale Mayor Thalhofer saying “we’ve tried everything to protect the neighborhood from the traffic, adding that the situation would be different if Multnomah County had been willing to consider 257th as an alternative access to the site”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Both Troutdale and Multnomah County development codes prohibit access to 257th from Tyson’s Place. It’s been the law for years.
Multnomah County has jurisdiction over 257th. The city council had no authority to require access for Tyson’s Place on 257th. There’s an interagency agreement that says Troutdale must follow Multnomah County’s regulations regarding access on 257th. During the August public hearing, Multnomah County experts stated that even if the access to 257th weren’t prohibited by city and county code, it would cost $10-20 million dollars to design and build safe access onto 257th. In addition, “safe” access would require the demolition of buildings at Troutdale Terrace to the north and single family homes to the south of Tyson’s Place.
Sedona Park residents, D.A. Grey officials, city and county officials all testified that the stretch of 257th near Tyson’s Place was dangerous due to a history of several rear-end accidents. It’s why Sedona Park residents requested a guardrail at that very spot.
Requiring alternatives to legal access via Edgefield Ave. were totally outside the scope of what the city council was asked to decide. Unlike in legislative matters, the city council’s range of options in a quasi-judicial proceeding are very narrow. The council’s authority is limited in determining if a particular property owner has the right under existing ordinances to proceed with a proposal for a certain use of their land. The council may not make a decision based simply on what they feel is the “right thing to do”, but must instead decide if the proposal is allowed under the existing law. Likewise, the council may not modify the laws that apply to the proposal under consideration. This is why there’s a settlement proposal on the table.
Consider the potential long term cost of this settlement. Every property owner who lives next to a vacant piece of land zoned for condos or apartments will expect the same golden ticket from the city when a developer wants to build on it. Consider the $600,000 that city staff and Troutdale's budget committee had to cut out of Troutdale's 2006-07 general fund. Consider the badly needed extra police officer our budget committee couldn't find a way to pay for. Consider the needs of a city of nearly 15,000 residents instead of the legal fees for the poor judgment of one politicized land use decision for a handful of residents.
Finally, according to your article, Mayor Thalhofer said, “…some of us on the council believe in protecting existing neighborhoods.” Well, I don’t believe the way to protect existing neighborhoods is to put the city at financial and legal risk by politicizing quasi-judicial land use decisions. I believe the best way to protect all of Troutdale’s neighborhoods is to consistently enforce our land use laws. It’s the rule of law that protects us all. Not the rule of law, except when we don’t feel like it.