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Zone change: Wagons Ho! for history groups plans?

Kerr Contractors considers legal challenge to council vote


The Friends of Historic Forest Grove have a green light to begin developing the city’s premiere historic property into a recreational and educational attraction, thanks to a city council vote last week.

The Forest Grove City Council voted 6-0 to approve a zone change for 5.5 acres of land in the Taylor Way Industrial Area, just south of Elm Street on the east side of Highway 47. The land includes a 158-year-old home built by Alvin T. Smith, whose family was one of the first three pioneer families to settle in the area, back in 1841.

“It’s where the whole community was really founded,” said Mary Jo Morelli, president of FHFG’s board of directors.

With the property’s zoning now changed from “general industrial” to “institutional” to reflect its semi-public nature, the Friends group can begin the master-planning process for the site, Morelli said.

In the past, people have envisioned everything from trails, to a community garden, to a recreational-vehicle park, to a living history museum with blacksmithing, woodworking and other traditional crafts.

Brent Kerr of Kerr Contractors, which owns property adjacent to the site, testified at the council meeting that he thought the change could be a threat to public safety. As an owner of industrial land, “the last thing you want is an institutional piece of property adjacent to you,” he said.

Kerr Contractors recycles concrete debris and asphalt, which is stored on the property and moved by trucks or heavy equipment.

“I’m all for saving the Smith house,” Kerr said, but if plans went through for an RV park, he’d worry about 4-year-olds riding their bicycles down Elm Street amid the truck traffic. “Nobody wants to run over a 4-year-old.”

Councilor Richard Kidd said potential problems are lessened by the fact that Kerr’s property is on the other side of Elm Street from the Smith House property and that it might be possible to change traffic patterns to further mitigate any risk.

But Kerr remains opposed and said he's considering legal action. He said he wasn’t notified by the attorney for the Friends group about a key vote related to the zone change because the notification was mailed to the wrong address.

Kerr owns more than 50 percent of the roughly 50 acres that make up the industrial park, so his “no” vote would have killed the zone change, he said.

“It seems like it’s been ramrodded through the city,” he said.




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