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Timberland Homes project gets green light

Owner Steve Brown had to jump through a lot of hoops to get the subdivision approved


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - BIG CHANGES ARE AHEAD - Dickson is currently a quiet street mainly used by residents of the Highlands, but after the Brown subdivision is built with 23 single-family homes and 22 apartments, traffic on the street will increase to more than 300 vehicle trips per day, according to King City's planning consultant, Keith Liden.After many months and several neighborhood meetings, Steve Brown, owner of Timberland Homes, finally had an opportunity to present his plans for a subdivision just east of the Highlands to the King City Planning Commission, which after a public hearing approved the project.

The 4.33-acre site is located north of 131st Avenue, east of Dickson Street, west of a row of homes facing Jordan Way and south of 128th Avenue, which is an unimproved street right of way used for utilities and storm drainage.

The project has been controversial from the start because residents of the Highlands are worried about increased traffic on Dickson, which forms their eastern border, as well as their future neighbors cutting through the 55-plus community to get close to Beef Bend Road.

Lee Leighton of Westlake Consultants presented the application to the Planning Commission, explaining that the 23-lot subdivision would have two access points on Dickson - one by extending 128th south and the other by creating a new 130th Avenue to extend into the property from Dickson; Grave Street is a proposed east-west street connecting 128th and 130th.

Along 131st would be a 22-unit apartment complex with three two-story buildings with one driveway access onto Dickson.

The site, now annexed to King City, initially had a Washington County designation of R-15, which requires 12 to 15 dwelling units per acre, and Brown worked to get a designation of nine dwelling units per acre so he could build homes similar to those he constructed in the nearby Castle Oaks subdivisions.

However, the final zoning designation the county allowed is 12 units per acre, so to have larger single-family-home lot sizes, Brown plans to construct apartments to meet the density requirement.

As planning consultant Keith Liden discussed the proposal with the Planning Commission in front of a packed house of audience members, Planning Commissioner Bonnie Babbitt asked about the safety of children walking up the hill to Deer Creek Elementary along 131st that has no sidewalks.

Liden replied, "We didn't hear back from Washington County. It would need to approve adding sidewalks or other improvements to 131st.”

Planning Commissioner Jan Thenell asked, "This project would add how much traffic to the area?" and Liden replied that "330 trips per day is the rule of thumb."

Commissioner Jim Armour commented, "When this started, it was only single-family. Now it's apartments. What about condos? Apartments are not a plus as far as I'm concerned... Why not turn it into a park?"

Liden replied, "Someone has to pay for that."

Leighton pointed out that the single-family lots would be 40 to 50 feet wide, "which is quite wide compared to current standards.”

He added, “This could have been all single-family lots, but they would have been small, skinny lots. We decided to put in an apartment complex so the lots could be bigger."

He added that 128th also would be improved from being a gravel road and that Dickson would be fully improved.

Commissioner Bonnie Babbitt added, "All long Matador, there are drainage problems. I want to make sure this doesn't add to it."

According to Leighton, the architect who would design the apartment buildings "specializes in buildings that look more like single-family homes." He added, "They will be very attractive. All the apartments will have a patio or deck, and there will be some open space around each building."

Leighton added that while city code requires one parking space per unit, "we are doubling that at 44 spaces."

Bill McKay, a member of the audience who lives on Dickson, said he thought the planners had done a "good job" on the project, adding, "We would prefer another Castle Oaks, but we understand the zoning requirements.

"Apartments are usually put by mass transit, like along 99W or Beef Bend, but here we're talking about an apartment complex in the middle of single-family homes and condos. There's a whole issue here of the lack of transit."

He asked the commission members whether they would prefer to approve apartments or condos, and another audience member, Bruce Whitaker of the Highlands, said, "I would ask you to consider condos."

Leighton answered, "The city code doesn't distinguish between ownership or renting. You can have renters in condos. Apartments or condos both equal multi-family.

“The city shouldn't mandate which units are for rent and which ones are for sale. The code doesn't authorize you to designate ownership."

Mary Mills, an audience member who lives in the Highlands, said, "I recommend that you not approve this as presented. We have residents between the ages of 55 and 94 with various levels of mobility. (You) are not factoring in Fed Ex trucks, garbage trucks, school buses.

“You're not factoring in what effect all this will have on seniors. The walkways through the Highlands will be a magnet for those kids. Those little patios on the apartments are not big enough for play areas - there will be no way to keep them out of the Highlands."

Leighton replied that every residential area has delivery trucks, "and the type of unit has no impact of what she fears."

He added, "The notion that this is suddenly going to impact the Highlands is not true. If you think the paths will be an attractive nuisance, you can exclude people."

Mills burst out, "We already have 'no trespassing' signs, and people use the paths anyway."

After acting Chairwoman Babbitt gaveled her down, Leighton explained, "Traffic studies include trucks, postal carriers and visitors' vehicles."

Finally, Brown spoke, saying, "I understand any new development has an impact on a community. I wanted the entire property to be single-family, but I wasn't able to get there.

“I tried to come up with something that would fit into the existing community as much as possible. I appreciate everyone's time on this."

The commissioners voted 5 to 1 on a motion to approve the project with Chairman Gerda Feickert, whose property adjoins Brown's land, abstaining.

No appeal has been filed, so the project has a green light to proceed.