The Molalla Planning Commission meets at 6:30PM, on Wednesday February 4th, at City Hall. At this meeting, they will again hear a proposal that was tabled in early January, on a proposal to rezone a parcel in northwest Molalla, to allow high-density residential development.
The site is a single-family residential property measuring nearly six acres total. The property is roughly triangular. A long curve of the abandoned Molalla Forest Road is to the southwest, the Elementary School is to the east, and Toliver Road is to the north.
The development proposal is being handled by Frank Walker, for the Donald Itschner family estate. The site is relatively level, with a small yard and garden area near the house and shop building. Roughly half of the property is in mature deciduous forest. It is adjacent to a school, a ballfield, and an abandoned corridor (the historic Molalla Forest Road). There is a small creek running through the center of the property. As is typical of the area, there are wetlands with soils that are seasonally saturated with water.As shown on the Google satellite image below, the property (orange ellipse) is one of the only natural and forested areas within walking distance of hundreds of densely packed homes to the north (large area outlined in red). There are no parks serving this large subdivision area. Here are three close-up satellite views, from Google Maps. The first shows the home/garden in the northern portion of the property. The second shows most of the southern portion of the property. The third shows the western half of the apartment complex to the north, in the middle of the large Molalla subdivision area; this is what high density development would look like, if the City approves the zoning change.:
A Better Plan
The location and natural qualities of this property make it an absolute no-brainer for the City of Molalla. We need to develop this property as a valuable asset for this area: a corridor trail to serve the community with parks, recreation, and wildlife habitat. City of Molalla should work toward acquiring most or all of this property. Generous grants are available (from both state and federal sources), but the City needs to provide the see money for those grants. Thus, the City should NOTbe granting property tax emptions, as the City Council did on January 28th for ‘Pacific Fibre Products, Inc.’.
The City’s goals should be to:
preserve the forest area as a refreshing wildlife habitat and nature-viewing area;
develop picnic and play facilities on the non-forested southern portion of the parcel;
make minimal improvements to the Molalla Forest Road between Highway 213 and Highway 211, as a bicycle and pedestrian corridor, to accommodate the recreational needs of area residents;
over time, pursue expansion of this bicycle and pedestrian corridor, using the historic Molalla Forest Road, all the way to the Molalla River Recreation Area.
…the following is Susan Hansen’s Letter to the Editor, sent to the Molalla Pioneer…
Molalla’s usual haphazard planning, putting developers’ demands above sound and orderly planning and zoning, is on display with the proposal to re-zone a Toliver Road parcel from single family to multi-family.
City Manager Huff claims that Molalla needs more multi-family. If that is true, why did Huff advocate to re-zone a big chunk of land in Big Meadow from multi-family to single family this summer? In sound urban planning, multi-family is integrated into residential areas so traffic filters out onto multiple neighborhood feeder roads. The property on Toliver would dump multi-family traffic onto already busy Toliver, right next to the Grade School.
The Toliver property hosts wetlands outlined on Molalla’s official Wetland Inventory (BC-6A). Before any development can occur, a property owner must hire wetlands experts to produce a wetland delineation report and submit it to the Division of State Lands. How can Molalla’s Planning Commission make an informed decision about re-zoning to multi-family before that required study is submitted and approved? No one knows how much of the subject property could actually be developed and what constrictions will be imposed because of the wetlands.
The subject property’s wetlands are part of a 10 acre Toliver Road to Main Street wetlands complex that feed Bear Creek. The Inventory notes the wetlands have high enhancement potential, provide wildlife habitat and have potential for educational use and recreational activities. The wetlands feature a mature forest of Oregon white oak and ash. A segment of the Forest Road runs though these wetlands and the area would make a fantastic park for the woefully underserved west side of Molalla.
Molalla’s Comp Plan Goal 5 (pages 16-17 “Water Resources”) states: “Maintain natural wildlife corridors along protected creeks and drainage ways; Give priority to preservation of contiguous parts of that network which will serve as natural corridors throughout the city for the protection of watersheds and wildlife; Conserve significant trees and vegetation within protected water resource areas…”
Will Molalla respect the value of the wetlands by following its Water Resources mandate and step up to provide quality of life enhancing parks? Or will Molalla’s unthinking, greedy march to stuff in ill planned development continue unabated?
A hearing on Feb. 4 will consider what path to take; citizen input is critical.
Thank you, Molalla Pioneer, for printing this letter in the 1/28/2015 print edition.
A good place to explore the upper reaches of Bear Creek is at City of Molalla’s Ivor Davies Nature Park. It’s basically a large flat area with a high water table, with a few trails and some added plants. Nothing awe-inspiring, but nonetheless a good place to get outside and walk the dog or take a jog or stroll.
(click on image to view area at Google maps)
Perhaps the most prominent feature of this park is a large and somewhat muddy feature that dries up in the hottest summers, called ‘Shorty’s Pond’ (orange circle, above). Here is a copy of a news article done by Henry Miller at the Statesman Journal: