Think of Me Hill rezone from single to multi-family requested

An Oregon man who scrapped an earlier development plan atop Think of Me Hill in Aberdeen is trying again, asking to have about 74 acres rezoned from residential single-family to residential multi-family.

The plan is scheduled to come before the Aberdeen Planning Commission at City Hall at 7 p.m., Thursday, . The meeting is on the third floor and open to the public.

Ed Christensen, owner of Welkin Engineering in Portland, applied for the rezone through Aberdeen Landing LLC and will present his plan at the meeting. This is the second time the development project has been attempted, but the first rezone request for multi-family status.

A prior land clearing for development ceased in 2008 mainly due to loss of financing, Christensen said. Erosion and runoff problems also led to a $79,000 fine from the state Department of Ecology, which was later reduced to $50,000 on appeal. That fine is still outstanding.

He said this year is the best he has seen in his business since mid-2007, enough of a rebound to rekindle his plans for the project. He blamed past problems on the economy and a record storm in early December of 2007. Some of Ecology’s complaints about erosion and sediment discharge preceded the storm, coming from a Nov. 30, 2007 inspection.

Phase one of the current plan involves building an apartment complex, Christensen said last week.

“The current plan is to do 14 single family lots and a 120-unit apartment complex,” Christensen said. “There will be a community pool and workout center, nice amenities.”

The rezone is critical for financing the initial development, which Christensen estimates will initially cost about $10 million.

“Nothing is going to happened if we don’t get the rezone,” he said.

Banks are still reluctant to lend, so he will seek financing through a REIT, which is a Real Estate Investment Trust, a security that is sold like a stock on major exchanges and invests in property directly or through mortgages.

There is a larger parcel of about 124 acres, part of which may be developed in time, he said.

Multi-family housing is needed in Aberdeen and very few areas are available for multi-family residential zoning, said Community Development Director Lisa Scott last week. Most are in the north and east areas of Aberdeen, she said. The last sizable apartment dwelling was constructed five years ago on the south side off Curtis, she said.

Scott will make a staff recommendation about the rezone to the commission. After the commission reviews the rezone application, it will make a recommendation to the Aberdeen City Council.

Lake View Terrace, the name of the original project back in 2007, and Aberdeen Landing LLC is still subject to all city codes and regulations approved in 2007 and any further building and permits deemed necessary, Scott said.
Residents of the area were concerned about the impact development of the hill in terms of traffic and access to the hill, which is served by the narrow and curvy Pioneer Boulevard. The initial city approval of the project asks that Pioneer Boulevard be widened from the top down, at least as far as Fleet Street, Christensen and Scott said. He noted that multi-family dwellings usually cause less of an impact on traffic because more people use fewer cars.

The address of the area is given as 1250 Pioneer Blvd. and the entrance to the area is on Randolf Street, said Scott.

The development area is located up Pioneer Boulevard where there is an open space and guard rail on the right hand side, Christiansen said. The land involved stretches from there all the way to the water tank.

In the appeal documents of the state’s fine related to the earlier project, the state Pollution Control Hearings Board said “Christensen’s plan was to construct an environmentally sensitive or ‘green’ development on the site.”

He borrowed to finance the development costs, the board’s finding of fact notes. When that dried up, he “was unable to fund the necessary actions to either complete the lots of adequately manage erosion on the unfinished site,” the appeal dated June 18, 2010 reads.

Christensen made several efforts to remedy the problems, including seeding the property three times by hand and covering the bare soil areas with straw, the appeal reads. Ecology revisited the site in February of 2008 and deemed those efforts inadequate, also finding that silt fences were not properly maintained and “turbid water” was being discharged.

Because of those efforts, the fine was reduced to $50,000. Both Christensen and a spokeswoman for Ecology reported that the fine is still owed and that no new fines, interest or penalties have been incurred since the appeal before the board.


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