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Development roils neighborhood


“Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” - Aphorism

Chet Antonsen presents his initial plan for three acres of former farmland at the Argay Neighborhood association meeting in November 2013. Neighbors objected to this plan and his others because they open streets that have been dead-end streets since the neighborhood was built 50 years ago.
Memo photo/Tim Curran
Argay Terrace residents are protective of their neighborhood's character.

They think developer Chet Antonsen, who owns MonteVista Homes in Bend, will smear it when he builds his Castlegate Apartment complex on three acres of former farmland and opens at least one dead-end street at the neighborhood's edge

After two overwhelming rejections by the Argay Neighborhood Association of Antonsen's plans to mitigate the developments impact-the latest at a special meeting of the group in May-neighbors might be right.

Because now, Antonsen-who said he is responsible for 90 percent of all new construction in the 97230 zip code over the last 20 years based on relationships with the Rossi, Cereghino and Calcagno families-said he is designing what neighbors asked for: a development with strict adherence to the R3 zoning code.

Not only is he going to adhere to the code, his concerns about mitigating the development's impact cease. “In my wildest dream, I can't understand what their logic is,” Antonsen said in a telephone interview after May's meeting that he did not attend.

At a special meeting in May, Argay Neighborhood Association Vice-President Chris Strand gave the more than 200 people in attendance a presentation about Antonsen's latest plans. Her wrong answers to some audience questions led neighbors to vote against supporting the developer's request for a code adjustment, which would have mitigated his development's impact on the neighborhood.
Memo photo/Tim Curran
Following his original proposal last winter to an overflowing crowd that was rebuked at an ANA general meeting (“Argay Angry over farmland development” MCM January 2014), Antonsen submitted the adjusted plan to the group's board prior to the May meeting. “Generally, you can get something more productive in a small meeting,” said Antonsen. “You really can't get a development that is more neighborhood-friendly, in my opinion,” or so he thought.

Part of the original Van Buren farmstead, the property Antonsen purchased from family heirs, is a narrow, finger-shaped parcel about a half-mile south of Sandy Boulevard, tucked between the Parkrose Chateau retirement community and Argay Downs condominiums from Northeast 148th to 145th avenues and between dead-end streets Rose Parkway and Morris Court.

An overwhelming majority of the more than 200 neighbors in attendance at May's special meeting agreed to support a plan that makes 148th Avenue the only access, like Parkrose Chateau immediately to the north. “The Argay Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to support current R3 zoning with no adjustments, regarding 3001 NE 148th St.” [sic] new ANA vice-president Chris Strand said in an email after the meeting. “The majority of ANA members would consider supporting a home ownership property vs. rental property stipulating in 99 percent of written comments, no street, sidewalk or driveway connections to the Argay neighborhood.”
Antonsen has a dilemma.

Either fight the neighborhood to open at least one dead-end street in to their midst, or fight the city for one access point at 148th Avenue.

“Our goal is better connectivity,” said Kurt Krueger, development review manager with Portland's Bureau of Transportation. “If Antonsen chooses only one entrance to his development, the city will make him convert Morris Court and Rose Parkway into cul-de-sacs that meet city standards, instead of the way they end now, in a stub at the property line. “If they're going to build in such a way (one entrance) that prevents us from getting that [connectivity], we're going to ask that the streets terminate in a standard cul-de-sac, a joint requirement of us and the fire bureau,” Krueger said. “The streets were set up (in the 70s) to extend as properties develop. Normally, when we have a dead-end street we require there be a cul-de-sac so people can turn around, maintenance can sweep the street; you just don't cut off the street.”

Unlike many east Portland neighborhoods that have succumbed to the onslaught of dense, infill development, until now, Argay Terrace has successfully resisted.

Krueger said the city would prefer opening Rose Parkway because it could eventually continue south and connect to the undeveloped parcels to the north as they develop. “The city code, or city standards, would ask that either those streets be connected, or set-up to connect further. We would prefer at least one of those streets; the southerly one (Rose Parkway) to move forward in north/south across the property to allow for connections to the north as those properties (the 40-acres of farmland jointly owned by the Rossi and Giusto families) develop.”

Built mostly in the 60s, Argay Terrace is a well-maintained neighborhood with a mix of 2,500 spacious, better quality, well-kept homes on larger lots, plus condominiums, apartments and adjacent businesses. It lies between I-84 and Sandy Boulevard and from Northeast 122nd to 148th avenues. Wide and curving low-traffic streets give Argay an open feeling and provide many homes with stunning mountain and river views. With no through streets, Argay has a different feel than other east Portland neighborhoods. Home prices range from about $250,000 to $500,000 or more.

Antonsen said had he sought it, he has no doubt the city would approve his second design.

Presented to neighbors by Strand at the special meeting, it retains the Van Buren's mid-century home on 148th Avenue; constructs two buildings with 24 units each; builds a duplex on the west end, and opened Rose Parkway.

However, because he is under time constraints with a 1031 tax-deferred construction exchange, the plan Antonsen submitted to the city in June-his third-is his last. “I've got to move on with another plan,” he said. “And, fortunately, I saw some of this coming. I had my designer start working on the row house plan.”

Final plan
Antonsen's final plan-seven 30 ft. high and 30 ft. wide buildings, with eight units each, for a total of 56 units, and demolishing the original home on the property-not only removes the neighborhood association from the equation, but also affects them in the most deleterious way possible.

Moreover, instead of extending Rose Parkway and building a city street to code into his development (Plan A), his new plans call for opening Morris Court into the development, which will have Northeast 148th Avenue the primary entrance. “This is not the right product (row houses) for the neighborhood,” Antonsen said.

Antonsen said he would have retained ownership of the project upon completion if allowed to build his second design. Now, with the new design having a row-house feel, he will not. “I won't keep it now because I don't want that kind of product in my portfolio,” he said. “But it'll be more profitable for me because I can get more units and sell them.” He added, “I'm now embracing turning lemons into lemonade; all I have to do is a site-design review and be done with it. I'm going to do everything completely within code.”

Neighbors know development will happen, and most are willing to compromise to some degree, but their main concern is the traffic issue related to how many access points the development has.

“At one point, Antonsen was considering a land division, which gave us the code authority to require connections,” Krueger said. “Then he changed plans to become a multifamily development. If they can meet all the code requirements, they would be an 'allowed outright use,' and there is no code that requires those connectivity requirements. Our ability to ask for streets to be connected in that setting gets more and more difficult.”

Following Strand's misinformation-soaked presentation at the meeting in May, many attendees voted for something they later said they were not sure what it was they were supporting. “It sounds like we didn't vote for the right thing last night,” said former ANA president Jeff Rempfer the day after the meeting. “Most of the people there last night haven't been coming to regular meetings. When I was outside, a lot of people were very confused what we just voted for.”

Krueger is sympathetic to neighbors' concerns about having dead-end streets opening but said he has to look at the bigger picture. “I know the neighborhood doesn't want the connection coming out of there. I have to take a bigger look than just a few neighbors saying, 'I don't want this.'”

Krueger asks how first responders would reach the property if 148th Avenue were blocked. “Here you have a big site with only one access off of 148th, and if you need emergency services, whether its police, fire, or ambulance trying to get there, and intersections are blocked, you'd have no other option to get to that property.”

Not everyone was confused, “Plan A (the plan Antonsen was hoping to get support for) is the best solution,” said Tom Colter, who lives in Argay Downs, and grasps what will happen. “I don't care if they raise density; I don't want low-income housing there, and if he sells them, that's what it'll go to.”

Developer Chet Antonsen's row-house design for three acres of former farmland at the edge of the Argay Terrace neighborhood calls for 56 units.
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