One of those housing projects – for older people – was the subject of debate and community concern out on Stevens Avenue. Late last year the developers of the “Mother House” at the McCauley School sat down with worried neighbors and with help from the City Council came to an agreement on a smaller development. Fewer units, but a solution that won broad support. It looked like a model of compromise.
Now the lawyer part of me says: Calm down, recognize that the courts are a part of our land use system like it or not, and good developers understand that this is an unwelcome part of the process that you just have to be ready to deal with.
But the Chamber guy in me is worried about the message all this sends.
To developers: Work hard at compromise, make changes in good faith, spend money to get there and have it all tossed in the courts because two people have a bone to pick.
To citizens: There’s no reason to work toward compromise if it doesn’t stick, so why bother with all those meetings?
To the world: This a community that doesn’t know what it wants, so maybe we should move on.
So here are some immediate thoughts.
First, if there is merit to the lawsuit, fix the underlying problem. If the comprehensive plan is broken - fix it, and start now. If the City’s zoning is ambiguous or in conflict with other requirements, let’s see some changes at the next Council meeting.
Second, if the lawsuit is without merit, seek sanctions. There are ways to do that under existing law. No one has the right to use the courts for frivolous purposes.
Third, and most importantly, it’s past time to build broad, durable community agreement on how the City and the region will grow over the next five and 10 years. Other communities around the country are doing this, and doing it well. We need to do it too. And we need to do it right away.
Ethan wants more housing, and so do we. The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce sees housing and transit as regional issues of primary importance to everyone’s future prosperity. These priorities are bigger than a few pissed off neighbors, or a broken land use system, and as a community we need to recognized that and move forward.