I have been studying the findings of the Land Use Board of Appeals in its consideration of the storm water pond built for the new Sunset School. Looking at the process of review, the property of citizens who live downhill from the site, and the quality of the data produced by the engineers, several items cry out for attention.
First, this matter of the pond must go before the Planning Commission before it goes to City Hall. The community is by law supposed to be able to review the plan and the supporting data before construction begins. People who live off-site and downhill from the school were not given the opportunity to review the current plan for the pond. Instead, the school's engineer, KPFF, met in private with the city's engineer. No off-site factual data are available for this new plan.
Second, the hydro-geologist hired at the expense of members of Save Our Sunset raised serious questions about the soil type and steep topography of the location of the pond. Neighbors must be able to see the facts to be reassured that lining the pond is sufficient to prevent flooding downhill. Lately, they have seen new springs and seeps coming to the surface in the neighborhood and the construction of impermeable surfaces in not even complete. Furthermore, they need facts to prove that Sunset Creek will not overflow its boundaries even more than it already does.
Third, the software program used by the engineering firm KPFF has been called into question, leaving it as an unreliable source for factual data. The City of Portland declared that they never use that software for storm water ponds, only for swales and rain gardens. It is a mystery to this citizen why the City applauds the use of rain gardens and swales at our new police station, and yet these methods have been rejected by the school district. It is a further mystery why the City has installed pavers in heavily used areas like the parking lots at Willamette Park and Fields Bridge, and yet they have been rejected by the school district.
A hearing with the Planning Commission is the proper way for us to get these facts aired. The school district and the City have not operated in a transparent fashion. The engineers have used substandard methods for determining storm water management, especially for potential off-site locations. Public forums have been denied as a part of the permitting process. All this and more leaves citizens downhill from the construction voiceless and vulnerable to water damage.
I went door to door to gather signatures in support of building the new school in its current location. I am happy to have the new school. However, I would like to see more reliable sources of data from the engineers presented to the Planning Commission. Even more, I would like to see the detention pond replaced with pavers, rain gardens, and swales.
Victoria Meier is a resident of West Linn's Sunset neighborhood.