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Nov 21

The election may be over, but the fight for Forest Grove is not

First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of the 1,758 residents of Forest Grove (per last count) who cast their votes for me in the city council election earlier this month.  I am truly humbled and appreciative of your support.  While I may not have been successful in winning a seat on the council this November, I am very heartened to see so many people here who share the same concerns about where our city is headed.  And in my capacity as a private citizen, I plan to continue to fight for this cause.

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In the short term, I plan to keep advocating for one of the key planks of my platform–ensuring that Forest Grove doesn’t simply become a cash cow for residential developers from Lake Oswego and West Linn, compromising everything that has made this city a great place to live.  In the candidate forums, I spoke out against two such developments that were in the pipeline, Silverstone and Gales Creek Terrace, which, combined, will increase Forest Grove’s population by about 1,100, and throw our city’s zoning balance even further askew.  While Silverstone was approved shortly before the election, Gales Creek Terrace is currently being appealed to the city council, who will be voting on whether or not to approve the development at their next meeting.

As I’ve said during the campaign, we’ve had an unfortunate history in this area, of approving large residential developments without adequate infrastructure.  Gales Creek Terrace, in its most recent incarnation, will cram 197 units into a relatively small area south of the twin Tom McCall Upper Elementary Schools, including “skinny houses” on lots with as little as 26-foot frontage.  And it’s being developed by the same trio of developers who are responsible for Casey Meadows off 26th Avenue.  If you’ve driven down 26th since that development went in there, you’ve seen firsthand what it looks like to have a large residential development without proper transportation infrastructure.

Part of the planned infrastructure for Gales Creek Terrace is a plan for an arterial-grade extension of 19th Avenue, destined to meet with Pacific Avenue and E Street as an extension of the one-way couplet, as per the city’s Transportation System Plan.  You can see the outline of it here on this map.

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Portion of Gales Creek Terrace plans, facing west. You can see the faint dashed outline of the proposed (and unbuildable) 19th Ave extension in the lower left corner (click to enlarge).

The problem, however, is that extension runs through the properties of two long-time Forest Grove families, who care about this city and have no plans to sell anytime soon.  Suffice to say, this proposed road would probably not be built for several decades, if at all.  That’s to say nothing of the fact that most of the park areas in the development runs right next to the floodplain, includes a bike path (a portion of the “Emerald Necklace”) that would give riders a view of skinny houses, and narrow streets that hamper emergency vehicles.  Gales Creek Terrace is a badly-designed proposal that will not produce a good situation for Forest Grove residents, new or old.  The planning commission was right to deny it in August.

Before the council votes on the developer’s appeal of the planning commission’s denial, they will be taking more public comment on the development at this meeting, which will take place on Monday, November 24th at 7pm at the Forest Grove City Auditorium (1915 Main Street).  I will be there, speaking in opposition to Gales Creek Terrace, and I urge you to do the same, especially as my inside sources have indicated that a majority of council members currently plan on voting in favor of the development.  As the November 24th meeting happens to coincide with a changing of the guard–Councilor Camille Miller leaving the council and Councilor Malynda Wenzl being sworn in–there will only be 6 votes cast.  As a majority is required to approve the development, a 3-3 tie is sufficient to kill Gales Creek Terrace.

If you are unable to make it to the meeting on Monday night, it is possible to submit written comments, which should be submitted to City Recorder Anna Ruggles (aruggles@forestgrove-or.gov) by 5pm on Monday.

As far as the longer term, I own the domain name for this site for 2 years, and as it essentially costs me nothing to host (it’s on the same server as my music site), it will remain up, though it will be reformatted to some degree.  I am currently planning to transition it from a campaign site to a traditional blog, where I will continue to provide hard-hitting commentary about the issues facing Forest Grove and Washington County, in much the same fashion as the policy essays I’ve written during the campaign.  I want to continue to spark debate and foster serious discussion of the issues, to increase citizen participation, to keep local governments accountable, and leave no stone unturned.

I hope you will all continue to stop by here to read about and discuss the issues affecting our community.  And again, if you share my concerns about Gales Creek Terrace, I hope you’ll come to the council meeting on Monday at 7pm, or send in your comments.  Thank you again for your support this election–while it may be over, the fight for our city is not, and I hope you’ll join me in this cause.

-Alexander