March 20th, 2013 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Politics, Housing, Activism

City Commissioners Weren't Told About New Plans for Division Street Apartments

UPDATE: Hales knew about permitting for controversial project

     
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The Portland Bureau of Development Services is fast-tracking a revised permit application for an 81-unit apartment complex on Southeast Division Street, without consulting neighbors or City Council.

The city issued a stop-work order for Beaverton developer Dennis Sackhoff's controversial development last month, after a state appeals board said the permit was issued illegally. Development Services officials said that Sackhoff would have to submit a new permit application and go through a neighborhood review.

But on Tuesday, BDS announced that it was reviewing a revised permit from Sackhoff—circumventing a new application, a meeting with neighbors or talking to City Hall.

"I am distressed and baffled," says City Commissioner Steve Novick. "Apparently, they got different legal advice from the City Attorney's Office. BDS did not feel they had an obligation to inform either the neighbors or City Council."

Sources tell WW that none of the four commissioners on City Hall's second floor were aware of the change until late yesterday. 

"I'm outraged that the Council was not consulted about this by the Bureau of Development Services," says Commissioner Nick Fish. "This particular development is almost a poster child for concerns that citizens have brought to Council throughout the city."

Fish said BDS' move made the city look sneaky. "Ultimately," he said, "people have to be accountable."

UPDATE, 1:15 pm: Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman says BDS officials consulted the mayor about the new permit.

"We did know about that, for sure," says Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes. "Bureau of Development Services was in contact with us about the best ways to get the word out on their website."

Haynes says Hales policy director Ed McNamara circulated the new permit news to City Commissioners on Tuesday after a decision was reached.

The state's Land Use Board of Appeals reversed the city permit in February on a technicality: the project didn't have a street entrance required by zoning code. The revised plan now under review fixes that.

"The revised plans eliminate proposed retail space and replace it with non-commercial common areas to serve the project’s apartment residents," BDS said on its website Tuesday.

The 37th Street Apartments have been a lightning rod for Division Street ire since last summer. Neighbors says the project, which has 81 units but no on-site parking, is a blight.

Neighbor Richard Melo, who filed the appeal to LUBA, believes BDS is conspiring with Sackhoff.

"I would think that as public employees, they should be working for us," Melo says, "not a land developer from Washington County."

 
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