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Happy Valley in-fill project causes uproar

A Happy Valley neighborhood is outraged about a proposed new development that observers are calling a microcosm of development issues inside the Portland region's urban growth boundary.

by: PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Laurie Fowlkes, a Jackson Hills resident, stands below a planned housing development that would increase traffic to the neighborhood.The 66-house Pioneer Highlands project is the first round of an estimated 300 to 400 new lots developers have planned for Scouters Mountain. The problem? Until all of the planned roads are built as part of future projects, existing local streets could be overloaded with traffic. Local streets such as Southeast Nicholas Drive, a steep road where children gather on sidewalks for the school bus.

“There’s really no other option for access (to Pioneer Highlands) but Nicholas Drive,” says Happy Valley City Planner Justin Popilek. “But, eventually, there will be this connectivity.”

How soon that connectivity might come is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, Jackson Hills resident Laurie Fowlkes fears for the lives of local children with an estimated 600 additional daily trips down Nicholas Drive.

“Somebody’s gonna die,” Fowlkes says, explaining how drivers already ignore the stop sign at the intersection with Southeast Spanish Bay Drive. “We just know it’s going to be one of our kids one of these days.”

The upper-middle-class Jackson Hills development is about 10 years old. Homeowner association board members say they are not anti-development but want it done “right.”

“It’s a black eye for the city of Happy Valley in terms of continually branching neighborhood off of neighborhood without investing in collector streets,” says board member Eric Jeter.

by: PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Children who live in Happy Valley's Jackson Hills will have to be more cautious when crossing Nicholas Drive because of a housing development will be built at the top of the hill.Association President Jeff Curran says, as a developer he was not surprised that the Happy Valley Planning Commission approved the project in a 5-2 vote June 10 despite objections from 111 petitioning neighbors. The developer fulfilled all the legal requirements for the project. Curran says, rather, that to blame are contradictory and out-of-touch regulations that fail to address issues that arise in-between the time when development of an area starts and when it finishes.

“The reality is that it adversely impacts the neighborhood beyond what many would consider reasonable,” says Curran. “It’s something that has occurred throughout the Portland metro area; that existing neighborhoods bear the cost of in-fill neighborhoods. And this is the good and bad of the urban growth boundary.”

As a result of the neighborhood outcry, Pioneer Highlands developers, the Holt Group Inc., pledged $50,000 toward a neighborhood traffic management plan of Scouters Mountain, a butte named for the large Boy Scouts of America camp there.

Popilek says the outcome of the study might be recommendations for speed bumps, bump-outs, stop sign relocations or other traffic calming measures.

Neighbors say they will be out in force at the July 1 Happy Valley City Council meeting to ensure that such a study is completed, which they see as integral to their effort to preserve the safety and livability of their neighborhood for years to come.

“We are begging the city: Don’t keep approving these little projects one at a time and keep kicking the can down the road,” Fowlkes said.




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