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The Grove development had been proposed for The Dalles property, viewed here from 12th and Richmond streets. 

The Dalles City Council adopted a resolution granting the appeal of a 83 lot subdivision known as “The Grove,” confirming their preliminary decision of Aug. 31 to deny the application submitted by Legacy Development LLC. The decision reverses staff and planning commission approval of the project and passed on a vote of four to one on Monday, Sept. 14.

The proposed project is located off Richmond Street between E. 10th and 12th streets.

The question before the council was whether the resolution and attached findings reflect the council’s decision on Aug. 31.

Voting against the approval was Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss, who said she did not think the city’s argument for denial would stand up at the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). “I think that instead of trying to deny or approve this appeal, we should be finding ways to make this use safe,” she said, noting the property was already zoned for high-density development.

“I really think we need to be smart, as a city council, and we need to not put ourselves in a position where we are going to have go and spend money litigating this. I think we could potentially rescind our previous motion, and then approve the subdivision, but adding in the  conditions identified within this resolution, basically to shore it up. I was willing to let that go back to staff, in order to come up with some additional relevant criteria. The criteria presented in this ordinance really isn’t something that I think is going to stand up in LUBA,” she said. 

She added that if traffic safety was so dangerous at 10th and 12th streets as people testified, which she believes it is, the city would need to address that regardless of whether or not the project was approved. “Regardless of the subdivision, we need to take care of that,” she said.

She asked the council, “Did anyone dispute anything in the staff report that was presented at the Aug. 24 public hearing? Did anyone think staff didn’t get it right?”

After pausing for councilor comments, and hearing none, Mayor Rich Mays responded he wasn’t going to say staff was wrong, but that he personally felt that the potential of dangerous circumstances hadn’t been emphasized enough or looked at closely enough, in regards to 10th, 12th and Richmond streets, and also the intersection of Highway 197 and Freemont St. 

“Correct,” Long-Curtiss replied. “But all those things were addressed in the staff report.” She added that recent state legislation requires the council only apply “clear and objective criteria,” which the city had not done. “We delved into subjective land, there,” she said.

May pointed out in the findings of fact that areas of noncompliance were noted dealing with infrastructure and pedestrian improvements.

“So you are going to deny it, because the city hasn’t done what it should and put in sidewalks up to this point?” responded Long-Curtiss. “You can’t make a developer put in sidewalks all the way from where they are developing, all the way down — I don’t know what the criteria is — all the way down to Thompson Street? That’s not the developers problem, you can’t deny their application based on their not doing that.”

May disagreed. “I would submit that by adding 80 units, over 100 cars, and 82 trips during peak hours, the developer would contribute substantially to the dangerous conditions on 10th and 12th streets,” he said. “Maybe he is not solely responsible for those conditions, but I would submit that by adding all those homes and cars and vehicle trips, he would be contributing to existing dangerous conditions on those streets.”

“I don’t disagree,” Long-Curtiss said. “But what I’m saying is that legally, they have met the conditions that we outlined for that property. We have said this was zoned as a high-density residential area. You can’t change that after the fact, after someone has purchased a piece of property and submitted their plans to staff, and they have twice been told by staff they met the criteria. Because this is a quasi-judicial hearing, it’s not about common sense, it’s about what will legally stand up. It’s going to go to LUBA, and we need to think about whether we have built a strong case for that.”

Mays asked staff if there was anything stopping the developer from coming back to the city with another plan. 

“The short answer is no,” said Chris Crean, the city’s attorney. “There may be a time limit on submitting the same application, but a new application could be submitted tomorrow.” 

Councilor Rod Runyon said he was well pleased with the staff report, and suggested the application may have been more clear if some of the conditions outlined in the report had been in the original application. 

“I was well pleased they did the job they did,” he said of the resolution, and moved for its passage as written. The resolution was then approved four to one, with Long-Curtiss voting no.

Developer responds

In an email responding to the council’s decision,  owner and builder Cameron Curtis of Curtis Homes, LLC, said he remained committed to the project as proposed.

“Curtis Homes and Legacy Development remain committed to developing the property with the original vision, which was to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “We have a passion for serving people and our desire has been to help meet the needs of our community by building high quality, attainable homes. We believe there are hard working people in our community that can not afford to live here, so our dream has been to break the barrier of home buying and reduce rental cost by offering a more diverse housing product.”

Curtis noted that Legacy Development is confident all “clear and objective criteria” set forth by the local and state law has been met. There is a structured process set by the city, executed by their planning department, which has been met every step of the way, he said. “We have submitted clear plans that meet the requirements set forth by the current zoning, which has been in place since 1994. We are simply meeting the need of the community by providing the much needed housing and growth that has been projected for years.”

 Curtis added that the property cannot be developed in a less dense manner because the zoning will not allow anything less than 55 units. “Those lots cannot be developed in large single family parcels,” he explained. The maximum lot size in this zoning is 4,000 square feet. The minimum is 3,500. 

He added that the state will push back on any attempts to change the zoning, due to the current house bills 2001 and 2003.

Curtis also noted there were question around specific lack of “infrastructure.” He noted the developer has completed a traffic study per City of the Dalles engineering standards and Oregon Department of Transportation guidelines, and that study showed the development as proposed would not burden the intersections. 

“In fact, it is well under the expected growth,” he pointed out. “We also got a second opinion per the request of the planning commission and that second opinion affirmed we followed guidelines and are not overwhelming intersections.”

He pointed out the proposed development has sidewalks that meet all ADA standards throughout, and The City of the Dalles engineering department has affirmed there are adequate local utilities to support this development. “This has been expected growth for over 20 years,” he said. 

“Our current plan extends those already adequate lines to the end of our property at our expense, and will benefit current and future neighbors,” he said. “There is no burden to any local infrastructure. This growth has been expected for years but was delayed for various reasons. Legacy Development is simply starting to answer the need for that growth by offering a wide variety of home sizes and price points.

“We believe everyone deserves a place to live and The Grove will serve a great new community to help our new neighbors thrive,” he concluded.

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