For nearly two years, a proposed apartment development on 2.9 acres of former farmland has been roiling the Argay Terrace neighborhood. The sign it was approaching a climax was a sign—literally. Developer Chet Antonsen erected it last month in front of the single-family brick house at 3001 N.E. 148th Ave., offering to give it away.
Rather than demolish the farmstead built in 1938 for the Van Buren family, Antonsen is offering the house to anyone willing to move it. Otherwise, he said in a phone interview, in 60–90 days it’ll be demolished to make way for construction on his 56-unit Castlegate Apartment complex between the Parkrose Chateau retirement community and Argay Downs condominiums.
Not the circumstance Antonsen envisioned in November 2013 when he presented preliminary plans to more than 140 people at an Argay Neighborhood Association meeting (“Argay angry over farmland development” MCM January 2014). He was seeking support for a variance from the city to build two three-story, 24-unit buildings—mitigating the loss of spectacular views from Argay Downs—rather than seven three-story, eight-unit buildings, which conforms to the R3 zone. In addition, his original plans included opening dead-end streets Rose Parkway and Morris Court into his development: the neighbors’ biggest fear.
Furthermore, Antonsen first proposed to not only retain the original farmhouse but also build a duplex at the west end of the development, living in one side when he was in Portland on business (as his primary residence is Bend, Oregon, after living in Portland for decades).
Soaked in rumors, speculation and outrage upon hearing the plans, dead-end street residents were the most vocal, at one point taking the wheel of the meeting and driving it into a ditch.
With many examples of his work in the 97230 zip code, the phlegmatic Antonsen was frustrated by the angry and vituperative response he got from neighbors when they heard his original plans.
The only takeaways from that initial raucous gathering were two things for many people: Antonsen wanted to open the dead-end streets, and they didn’t believe the developer when he said he’d reside in the development part-time.
Residents want something resembling the existing neighborhood developed: single-family homes on large lots, which is impossible. The farmland is zoned R3, the residential apartments zone designation, with one dwelling every 3,000 sq. ft. Homes in Argay Terrace are zoned R7, the residential single-family zone designation, with one dwelling every 7,000 sq. ft.
Failing that, neighbors don’t want any traffic added to Argay streets. Nevertheless, city transportation planners tell Antonsen they will not approve any plan unless at least one dead-end street opens into his complex, in support of their connectivity policy.
The meeting’s aftermath sent shock waves through the association. Competent and incompetent board members resigned. The well-meaning volunteers who replaced them were also in over their heads on land use issues. By handing out misinformation like Halloween candy at subsequent neighborhood meetings, they ended up exacerbating the situation by leaving neighbors more confused (“Development roils neighborhood” MCM July 2014). More board resignations followed. Much has happened since that first meeting, yet little has transpired.
Today, current ANA board members—with one remaining from November 2013—were also animated to volunteer by the development. Land Use Chair Al Brown’s career as a real estate broker, appraiser, analyst, and consultant spans 45 years. “I’m not going through the whole 22 months because there’s been plan after plan, negotiation after negotiation, and just in essence we’re back to where we started in November 2013. We’ve come full circle a few times,” Brown told neighbors at the September meeting.
Antonsen has proffered many other preliminary plans to city planners and the neighborhood association board (City wants development split—maybe” MCM Blog February 2015). One party or another (“City snags development plan MCM February 2015) has rejected all. Nevertheless, Antonsen is moving forward. He hasn’t yet applied for a building permit; however, he did apply for a demolition permit for the house, a first step before site preparation, followed by construction. He said he is set to file for the building permit soon. “We’re proposing one [entrance] on Rose Parkway and then a right-turn in, right-turn out to 148th [Avenue],” Antonsen said. Because they say it is unsafe, Antonsen does not think the city will allow the 148th Avenue access but he is putting it in the plan for neighbors. “We’ll see. It’ll get vetted out and we’ll see where it goes.” In regards to adding traffic to through the neighborhood, Antonsen said, “During peak p.m. trip, which is two hours it’ll [Castlegate] create one extra car every two minutes in Argay. Now you live in Argay, are you even going to notice one extra car every two minutes?”
Editor’s note: Since April 2015, Memo Publisher Tim Curran has been an Argay Neighborhood Association board member.