May 2, 2020

Mallory Herrmann

A new residential development narrowly received approval from the city council this week.

The Sequoia development, a maintenance-free cul-de-sac subdivision with 24 duplex units, is planned for NW Olive Street near the intersection at NW Orchard Drive. The Union Pacific rail line borders the site on the west.

Each unit will be approximately 1,500 square feet with a two-car garage and two parking spots in the driveway. They’ll have an estimated price tag between $250,000 and $270,000; they will be available for purchase only and will not be available for rent.

The preliminary development plan was submitted by Orchard Park Development, LLC, on behalf of property owner Dick Burton and engineer Mick Slutter.

Initially proposed as a development of fourplexes totaling 36 units, concerns were raised about the density and the condition of the neighborhood’s roads. In order to build fourplexes, the developer had requested a rezoning – and that would have triggered a requirement for the developer to improve the roads beyond the scope of the development itself. Because duplexes are allowed within the current zoning, no such requirement would be triggered.

The original application was recommended for approval last summer, but the city council remanded the application back to the planning commission in order to further discuss the road improvements. But then the developer withdrew the application.

The planning commissioners reviewed a new application from the developer in March. While the commissioners recognized the concerns about the road conditions, they voted unanimously to recommend approval of the preliminary development plan. But they also encouraged residents to contact their city council representatives about the roads.

Several residents did just that, taking Councilmember Phyllis Edson on a tour of the neighborhood to point out the deteriorating roads and sites of frequent and severe flooding.

The city council grappled with the line between the responsibilities of developers and the responsibilities of the city, and whether approving additional infill development in an older neighborhood might only exacerbate existing traffic and road problems – or whether it could mean that the neighborhood benefits from a higher prioritization in the city’s ongoing public works maintenance and repair projects.

“If we don’t approve this, what can are we kicking down the road?” Mayor Bill Baird asked the council.

But Councilmember Diane Forte worried that approving the project without an explicit plan for repairing the roads could leave the neighborhood behind once again.

“If we approve this,” Forte said, “we have to do something.”

Ultimately, it was Councilmembers Edson, Trish Carlyle, Fred DeMoro and Beto Lopez voting against.