Opinion: Norwood Road Zoning Change

Plambeck Gardens affordable housing project.
Carleton-Hart Architecture is the designer of the 116-unit Plambeck Gardens affordable housing project, which was granted a variance from parking and height regulations by the Tualatin Planning Commission at a Nov. 18 meeting. Courtesy Carleton-Hart Architecture
- Advertisement -

This all started when the City approved the Plambeck apartment project, where developers requested to bypass the city zoning for height restrictions. It’s mind-boggling why this request was ever approved and set into motion a precedent that is unfolding recklessly. A money grab from non-local developers guised as building “affordable housing,” when in fact, they are salivating at the opportunity to build high-end apartments and townhomes in the suburbs (openly advertising as such), which were never designated for such developments. They are asking the City to change zoning to expand the area for such developments, when the designated area already has plenty of lands available for these developments. These developers can’t command high-end prices in these designated areas – this is a money grab – not “affordable housing.” 

They are requesting a change in the language of current zoning – specifically “CHAPTER 44 HIGH-DENSITY HIGH RISE ZONE (RH-HR) TDC 44.100” as follows:

The purpose of the High-Density High Rise (RH-HR) zone is to provide areas of the City that are suitable for high-density apartments or condominiums.

The original proposal the City approved on the Plambeck apartments on Norwood was good. It met the City’s broader planning objectives for affordable housing, was within City codes, aesthetically appealing, and not detrimental to neighborhoods’ property rights. But later, the developers said, “the property was difficult to develop due to challenging topography,” and requested a “variance” to increase to 4 stories (2 stories about the zoning laws). That “argument” has been proven false. All anyone has to do is look at the Lennar new home development on Norwood (adjacent to this project) – I walked the cleared land before improvements – the topography revealed tremendous up & down elevation changes no different than what the adjacent Plambeck original development plan faced. While I’m no fan of Lennar and how they removed their promised “tree preservation zone” (a whole other issue that should never have occurred), Lennar validated the ability to work within those parameters and the existing building codes. The Plambeck developers who purchased the property knew the topography before they bought it, they just wanted to change the rules & the City obliged.

It’s simply wrong that this project was approved and what appears to be leading to similar projects being approved. These developments are not benefitting those in need of affordable housing. They only add to an already extremely congested traffic area (trying to bypass I-5 rush hours) while benefitting developer’s bottom line at the expense of neighbors of Norwood. We can hire lawyers, but it’s time to ask our elected officials to represent the residents of Tualatin – not the non-local, money-grabbing developers!