Beaverton takes its turn to drive the Washington County mafia steamroller

Carla Axtman

In the free-wheeling development landscape of Washington County, I'm used to seeing some irregularities in allowing a project to go forward. But the City of Beaverton stands poised to take things to a whole new level of stupid, especially if elected officials would like to, say, keep their jobs. If you live in Washington County--this is how your local governments will likely be steamrolling you in the future.

Beginning in the late 90s, the City of Beaverton began an aggressive forced annexation of roads around what is known as the Peterkort property. This 250 acre swath of land is situated just west of St. Vincent's Hospital, running along both sides of Barnes Road and ending just past Cedar Hills Blvd. (Here's a pretty good map). Originally, the Peterkort family considered the move by the city to be hostile, but after years of negotiation, the land was eventually annexed. The city was then charged with assigning land use and zoning designations for the property, which were unveiled this month. More on that in a moment.

Before Beaverton and the Peterkorts were hatching their plans for development, the residents of the area were working with Washington County to create a Cedar Hills-Cedar Mill Community Development Plan. This long range plan was developed in 1997 after extensive citizen involvement and discussion. In a nutshell, the plan lays out an Orenco Station style community situated around the Sunset Transit Center.

Think of these two situations as speeding freight trains on the same track, hurtling toward one another from different directions.

On December 7, the first warning light went off that a collision was imminent.

That evening, the Beaverton Planning Commission approved a set of zoning changes for the Peterkort property. These changes would potentially allow for the city to pitch out the Orenco-style plan created by residents and Washington County, instead creating around 9 million square feet very large retail big box outlets that would make Washington Square look measly.

Sources tell me that several staff for Washington County have tried to raise objections and sound alarm bells, only to be aggressively yanked back by Washington County Commission Chair Andy Duyck. And by "aggressively", to the point of being concerned that they'd be fired for speaking up. It would seem that Duyck is working (or perhaps colluding) to see that the 1997 Orenco-style plan is scuttled.

Interestingly, most of this work has been done leading up to and around the holidays, perhaps hoping to fly under the radar of most citizens. A local Citizen Participation Organization (CPO) requested an extension in order to digest and work through the massive amount of paperwork on the matter, but the request was dismissed by the Beaverton Planning Commission, citing lack of citizen involvement. The CPO was told that the time for citizen engagement would come later, when the plans for development are submitted.

This has created even more tension, however. Generally, if citizens want to protest land use decisions, they have to show up early in the process to a hearing and/or submit testimony. If that doesn't happen, they don't have standing down the road to testify and/or object as the process moves forward. With the abbreviated timeline for this process, local citizens are left to scramble.

The deadline for filing an appeal for the planning commission decision is tomorrow, December 27th. A meeting of local citizens is scheduled for tonight at 7PM at Leedy Grange in Cedar Mill to determine how they can move forward with their objections.

Washington County residents who don't live near this mess should be extremely alarmed. First, years of citizen involvement and buy in are about to be tossed aside, stoking what is already a deep distrust between residents and city/county officials. Second, guess who pays for the infrastructure improvements and other work necessary to bring this development along? Not just Beaverton residents. Under the current agreement, Barnes Road remains the providence of Washington County, which means all county residents have to foot the bill.

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    i used to be the Asst Mgr for the HOA at Orenco Station. it is a hell of a place; not for everyone, but it's the way development should go: lots of parks, lots of green, a variety of home styles (cottages, condos, rowhomes). a non-insane HOA Board. there was the slight issue of the entire 400+ facility development having to be completely rebuilt because of construction defect, but everything in the past 20 years has had construction defect.

    good luck on tis, Carla. Orenco Station is award-winning, friendly, livable, etc. it always felt peaceful there (apart from the guy do didn't care where he let his dog crap & screamed at anyone who objected). you have the crux of progressive politics happening right there, and i hope Wash Co folks heed the wake-up call on this.

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    Thanks for staying on top of the planning commissions actions Carla. As a resident just down the street from Sunset Transit, I would hate to see that area become an extension of the already failing Peterkort Town Center. If you ask me, this area should have been the home of the Beaverton Beavers...but that's a whole other issue.

    I don't know if Orenco style is the answer (with the glut of condos and the new 45 central development), but it's not a bad proposal. First and foremost they need more parking to meet the needs of the commuters in the area. Those that knock the Max probably aren't aware that the parking structure at Sunset fills up by 7 am, and anyone there after has to walk 3-4 blocks to get to the train, thus disincentivising many any the area to commute by train.

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    Development around transportation options? Heck yes.

    Increasing density of existing growth boundary? Yes.

    Miles and miles of strip malls and generic track housing? Please no.

    Orenco Station is okay. It's main issue is that it was stuck out in a field in the middle of nowhere Hillsboro (Things have filled out around there some since). It's worthy of noting that Portland used to have many buildings downtown that were built on this same model (street-level businesses, living overhead). Why we have lost this idea is beyond me.

    9 milllion square feet of pure retail though? Insane. Even if they built it all, and managed to find tenants who is going to travel out there? Beaverton certainly doesn't have the traffic to support it. And judging from the amount of empty storefronts around here, it's nothing that is in demand. Meanwhile, the Portland area still has a (affordable) housing crisis.

    So the plan is to build a giant range of stripmalls that we can't fill... but if we want rents that are under $900/month, good luck. Madness.

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    This is a huge issue affecting our community. I have been talking with several folks who are deeply engaged with this (thank you, Jake Mintz, for taking time just now for more conversation) and am doing a lot of reading to gain as much knowledge as possible about the history of this plan (both the original plan and what is being proposed now). Unfortunately I won't be able to attend tonight's or tomorrow's meetings myself, but look forward to getting reports from those who do, and engaging in whatever ways are appropriate in my new role as State Senator for District 17, which includes this area.

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    As a resident of Aloha, how about I pay for the Peterkorts' sidewalks and sewers when they pay for my healthcare?

    Oh. Sorry. What I meant was, this is a very important issue that should not be rushed through. All perspectives should be considered.

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    As a former member of the 3NOT5 group that opposed Washington County's plan to widen Bethany Boulevard to five lanes in a residential area, I have to you are about to take on a very steep uphill battle.

    We turned out over 350 people at the first open house on the project with around 85% favoring widening to 3 lanes, collected over 1600 signatures on petitions, flooded county commissioners and county transportation staff with letters, email and phone calls and forced a vote by the appointed Focus Group - staff had not planned to do so - that again endorsed a 3 lane and not a 5 lane project only to have all the public comment ignored. The final insult was that Transportation Director Andrew Singelakis presented what he called a 'modified 4 lane' plan to commissioners that is really a 5 lane road. It narrows to 4 lanes for about 20% of its length and is 5 lanes for 80%.

    Citizens ignored and lied to by Washington County staff and some elected officials - that sums up my experience. I hope your experience will not be the same.

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    More big boxes to sit empty at the end of suburbia? I suppose it's easier to keep making the mistakes one already knows how to make rather than to think clearly about what the future holds.

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    You people crack us up at the Oregon Spectator. It appears that you really do not appreciate economics or capitalism. Perhaps you should gather together pool your money and buy the Petercort property. That way you can own all of the bundle or rights that go with the land, develop your own plan and suffer the consequences of risking your capital. We truly appreciate shopping in big box stores because of the myriad of choices it affords the buyers, the dry, rainless environment inside the store. Even better are the large regional malls that not only enable you to shop for different brands and a whole choice of products. After all isn't that what you people advocate is choice?

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      Well, of course the issue is, what is the bundle of rights that goes with the land, and what should it be? Extremist expansions of anti-social privileges are not actually rights. It's kind of like my freedom to swing my arms being limited by whether there are people nearby whom I would hit if I swing them. Property rights are social and historical constructions and not absolute.

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