“If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is partly because that is the road they generally start out on.” — Stephen Garrard Post

At its September 2014 general meeting, <a href=

The day after Al Brown’s election to the Argay Neighborhood Association board and chair of its Land Use Committee, he moved quickly. He got to work on his plan to bring city planners and developer Chet Antonsen closer to the group’s ideals of what they want to see in Antonsen’s three-acre development of former farmland at the eastern edge of their neighborhood.

So far, neither neighbors nor the city approves of Antonsen’s plans to develop apartments and townhouses on Northeast 148th Avenue between dead-end streets Morris Court and Rose Parkway.

Access is the sticking point.

The city wants connectivity (open dead-end streets), the developer wants to build (turn a profit on investment), and the neighbors want two dead-end streets abutting the property to stay that way (maintain status quo).

“Our main objective is to get rid of the potential for traffic,” said Brown, who is not only a Portland native, property appraiser, real estate broker and land-use expert, but also a longtime Argay Terrace resident who has been advising the board—in an unofficial capacity—since neighbors learned about the development in 2013. “There’s no requirement from anybody that traffic be added to Argay.”

Neighborhood association in flux
Up to the point of Brown’s official involvement, the tone between Antonsen and neighbors has been adversarial from the beginning. Moreover, the city exacerbated it by not having any representatives at any of the well-attended meetings to answer neighbors’ questions.

In addition, it was bad timing for the neighborhood association. Valerie Curry, who served on the ANA board nearly two decades in every position resigned shortly after moderating the first ugly general meeting where Antonsen presented his plan to more than 200 neighbors, many visibly and vocally angry (“Argay angry over farmland development MCM January 2014).

Not only was Curry the only constant in the city-funded neighborhood association—a fairly typical east Portland NA circumstance to have one, or maybe two key, shot-calling volunteers—but also her institutional knowledge was gone, leaving remaining members with neither enough understanding of, nor experience with land-use issues.

After that first raucous meeting, and in hopes of working with a smaller group for better results, Antonsen approached the sans Curry board with a new plan. Demonstrating their inexperience, and rather than work through issues with the developer, they promptly called for another general meeting where a new, staggeringly ill-informed board member presented Antonsen’s second plan to another large group (“Development roils neighborhood” MCM July 2014). By giving both correct and incorrect answers to audience questions, she not only engendered more unwarranted antipathy towards the developer, but also frustrated attendees as many left the meeting more confused than before it. Shortly after this meeting, and having served on the board only a few months, she resigned citing health reasons.

Because it blocks dead-end streets from opening, this plan for developing apartments and townhouses on three acres in Argay Terrace recently earned the neighborhood association’s approbation. COURTESY MONTE VISTA HOMES

Because it blocks dead-end streets from opening, this plan for developing apartments and townhouses on three acres in Argay Terrace recently earned the neighborhood association’s approbation.

Although accepting what’s left of the former Van Buren farm will be developed, neighbors do not want it to change the character and constitution of the 60-year-old neighborhood. With no through streets, Argay Terrace has a different feel than other east Portland neighborhoods, and through connections to arterial streets, like Antonsen was proposing, irrevocably alters it, and is a non-starter with neighbors, especially those on the dead-end streets in question.

“We’re resigned to the fact it’s coming and can’t stop it, but we can work together to get the best deal for the neighborhood,” Brown said. “I want smart development that compliments Argay; I’d like nothing better, as I keep saying, to have this settled, and over and done with.”

Developer Antonsen feels the same way and is happy to let Brown fight the city on his behalf. “I’ve always not wanted connections to Argay,” Antonsen said. “I fight the city more than neighbors fight me. I would love to just access my property off 148th.” However, he thinks neither the fire department nor the city will allow only one access, which is why every plan he proffered to neighbors has included opening at least one of the dead-end streets, roiling neighbors.

The day after his election, Brown called Antonsen. During their conversation, Brown said he and Antonsen agreed the best plan for both parties was to come to an agreement on a design first before approaching the city.

Among many design plans for the parcel, Antonsen has one that he sent to Brown. It’s a plan that not only preserves the dead-end streets, but also fulfills the city’s directive of connectivity without disrupting the neighborhood. “I think its something we can work towards a solution with,” Brown said. Moreover, with Brown’s background equipping him with the tools to do the research and work—he’s spent hours poring over arcane city code, land-use regulations, and case law—he’s convinced he can get neighbors want they want.



Argay Terrace history

In the late 1950s, homebuilders Art Simonson and Gerhardt (Gay) Stabney created the residential development Argay Terrace, naming it after themselves and the sloping nature of the land.

A distinct neighborhood within Parkrose, it lies between I-84 and Sandy Boulevard and between Northeast 122nd and 148th avenues. Development continued into the 70s, resulting in a mix of spacious, better-quality, well-kept homes on larger lots as well as condominiums, apartments and adjacent businesses. With no bisecting through streets, its wide and curving low-traffic streets give Argay Terrace an open feeling and provide many homes with stunning mountain and river views.

It is a well-maintained family-oriented neighborhood of more than 6,000 people occupying more than 2,500 homes. Home prices range from about $250,000 to $500,000 or more.