Aug. 24, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The city council has chosen not to vote on the proposed Burton Townhomes project, instead agreeing to continue the preliminary development plan public hearing to Oct. 1, in hopes that the developer and city staff can come to a compromise on street improvements.

The development would add nine four-family dwelling units near the intersection of NW Olive Street and NW Orchard Drive. Each unit would include three bedrooms and two and a half baths, with an expected purchase price between $195,000 and $230,000.

Throughout the public hearing and planning commission review process, residents have raised concerns about increased traffic on roads that are already in poor shape, potential stormwater and sewer issues and the aesthetic compatibility of fourplex units in a largely single-family home residential area.

The developer has responded to neighborhood opposition with assurances that landscaping and exterior design features (such as color schemes and stone elements) will help the buildings better complement the neighborhood and that the planned detention ponds will help mitigate stormwater issues and will be properly maintained.

But they remain opposed to a recommendation from city staff that the developer should take responsibility for making street improvements to Olive and Orchard. City staff indicated that per the city council’s unimproved road policy, which is supported by the unified development ordinance (UDO), the developer would need a waiver from the council in order to avoid making the street improvements. Neighbors cite narrow streets that already have difficulty with traffic capacity, crumbling materials and a lack of sidewalks, curbs and proper street lighting.

While the council largely agreed that it was a good project, they were also in agreement that they would not be able to move forward without a plan to improve the aging roads.

“It’s very difficult to think about modifying our guidelines to allow an unsafe environment,” said Councilmember Fred DeMoro.

The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project, though having also cited potential concerns about the road improvements, at their Jul. 25 meeting.

Councilmember Rob Binney made a motion to continue the public hearing to Oct. 1, in hopes that some solution can be found that would allow the project to move forward.

The city council and mayor voted unanimously in favor of the continuation. All councilmembers were present at the Aug. 20 session.