Molalla:Times are changing – but the good old boys don’t get it yet!

Here’s more fuel to prove that HIGH END is dead as a door nail – even in FORMERLY UPSCALE Happy Valley. This pretentious “gem”, formerly listed a year ago for 1.1 million just sold for a puny $600,000:

Saturday’s Oregonian featured an article about (miracle of miracles!) 200 apartments coming to “high end” Happy Valley. It was titled “A change for Happy Valley”. Ha!  The “change” is that the crashing real estate market and tanking economy has softened Happy Valley’s elitist heart and now here comes APARTMENTS – and some “high enders” aren’t happy!

What does that have to do to with Molalla? There is a lot to learn when you compare and contrast Molalla’s process with Happy Valley’s process.

First, “high end”, the pipe dream that drove Molalla into close to HALF A MILLION DOLLARS in deficit spending for bogus growth dreams, is OVER!

Happy Valley, per the article posted below, admits that trying to build a community of just “high end” single family homes weren’t sustainable. That’s pretty obvious from the hugely discounted “gem” pictured at the top of the post. A loss of almost half a million in value on a house built in  2006 certainly isn’t going to help the property tax assessors keep up  the tax base on  those huge mansions. Happy Valley now lusts for multi-family development.

But guess what? Happy Valley can foster new, dense multi -family development because it wisely charged high SDCs during the boom and can thus implement the infrastructure needed to accommodate dense multi-family development. Happy Valley can PROFIT FROM DENSITY.

But there is more: Happy Valley just DOUBLED the fees it charges for development! Happy Valley knows that it can’t sustain a QUALITY city without high-end SDCs.

Molalla, on the other hand, tried to waive SDCs and “attracted” another bottom feeding developer who is obviously more interested in building more low-end, tacky Motel 6-esque crap like StonePlace Apts than in following the concepts in the Downtown Master Plan. And, even if the sleazy inside trader, take the money and run developer who has proposed Hart Street Apartments could follow the mandates of the Downtown Plan, he obviously can’t find private funding for tanking fast in the days of $4+ gas Molalla. And even if he could find financing to build, he and the City can’t afford the complex, multi-million dollar transportation fixes needed BEFORE dense downtown housing could be allowed.

Rock and hard place! It is pretty funny that the Molalla fake plannin’ dude and his dumbbell planning commission keep up the charade about Hart Street. It is pathetic that only a couple of months ago a Molalla City Councilor claimed at a public County meeting that Molalla “was getting” 170 apartments and that that would mean “more customers”. Gag! That same Councilor now admits that the apartments aren’t coming. It might be nice for a change if the Councilors and the nasty “manager” Atkins stopped telling lies in public to try to make Molalla look good to the rest of the world.

This month, at the same C4 meeting where the lie was told about Hart Street Apartments, it was telling to see that the Mayor of Wilsonville was honest enough to amend his former giddy account of bagging a solar manufacturer for his city. Wilsonville’s City Council, much to Mayor Knapp’s surprise, is balking at the huge give always necessary to “attract” the solar company.

Let’s celebrate Wilsonville Mayor Knapp’s PUBLIC HONESTY about his struggles with his Council. I have NEVER seen a Molalla official tell the truth at C4. Besides that lie about Hart Street, past rep Boreth couldn’t even tell the honest story about his recent defeat in the fall election or have the courage to tell C4 who the new City Councilors were in Molalla. People notice every detail of how open – or closed – cities are. Molalla is the worst of the worst for “pretending” in public.  You can’t run or hide from FACTS – the whole County knows how backward Molalla is!

Even the Clackamas County Planning Commission said with irony, when Atkins babbled about “wanting” a vibrant city economy, that they “had been worried about Molalla”. It’s certainly NOT time to stop worrying about Molalla, given its lack of SDCs, its lack of prospects for the future and its close to bankrupt status.

One issue stands out that Happy Valley’s “high end” created: the “high end” folks don’t want to share their open spaces and parks. That “exclusive” development trend has shot Happy Valley in the foot in terms of PUBLIC PARKS.

We are lucky that DLCD has told fake plannin’ dude Potter that he has to wipe all language about “equestrian estates, golf courses and community planning areas” out of the codes. All of those are triggers for the exclusive use communities within communities that are causing grief in the negotiations for multi-family dwellings in Happy Valley. The “high enders” are worried that the “low enders” might have the gall to use the parks/open spaces created in the exclusive towns within a town.

It is already bad enough that Molalla saddled itself with walled off places called “Big Meadow” and “Shel-Mar” – that kind of nonsense defeats walkable cities and causes divisions between what should be connected neighborhoods. People stop living in “Molalla” when they say they live in “Big Meadow”.

That kind of isolated, “us only, let them eat cake” attitude was rampant in Molalla’s “planning” during the “boom”. City manager “I am owned by land speculators” Atkins even outlined in the Pioneer in 2007 the plans for an exclusive “high end” community area with 40-50 mansions, swimming pools, hiking trails and tennis courts that you can bet your bottom dollar weren’t going to be open to the “just folks” living down the hill in places like Sunrise Acres! Aren’t we lucky that land use laws and the real estate bust stopped that in its tracks!

But to get back to the primary difference between Happy Valley and Molalla: MONEY. Without SDCs Molalla is going downhill faster than any city around. At C4 last week, Canby and Sandy both were excited to report projects like new libraries and street development projects. Other, WELL MANAGED CITIES have MONEY because they hired competent staff and had elected officials who realized that growth isn’t a free ride.

Molalla hired incompetents and protects them because of nepotism. Luckily, the current Council has a chance to correct those past hiring/retention mistakes. But the clock is ticking and if something isn’t quickly done to change the trajectory, Molalla will soon be like Detroit and Flint: ready to bulldoze surplus crumbling neighborhoods where no one wants to invest. Greed fostered the “stuff them in without SDCs” attitude.

Let’s hope the Council can marginalize worthless, provincial “mayor” Clarke and his band of good old boy influence peddlers and lead Molalla into a new era where market forces rule: if a business isn’t strong enough to compete, if developers can’t afford to pay market rate SDCs they have no right to “special terms”. Atkins’ “special terms” and incompetent Potter’s failure to even apparently collect SDCs will haunt the future – but there won’t be a future here unless SDC reform happens quickly.

On second thought: Peak oil and the low quality city will do the “marginalize” job quite well. Molalla better take stock quickly at what the realistic future holds – I can guarantee it’s not pretty and it certainly won’t involve “high enders” flocking to view lots on the south hills. LOL Potter, Atkins and Clarke: your “efforts” killed the future. If I were Clarke/Atkins/Potter and had to face the public and defend the mess I had made, I’d gracefully take a long hike off a short dock and let new ethical grownups manage what’s let of Urban Decayville. How about some HONEST COMPETENT PROFESSIONALS – but maybe, given the state of BLIGHT and BANKRUPTCY in Molalla it might be difficult to find a sane, honest person to take over.

Here comes the story about Happy Valley’s new apartments and the elitist community concerned that the apartment dwellers might invade their gated strongholds:

A change for Happy Valley: City supports a proposal to build 200 apartments in Sunrise Heights

Published: Friday, April 08, 2011, 3:00 PM     Updated: Saturday, April 09, 2011, 2:14 PM
Natalie Feulner, The Oregonian By Natalie Feulner, The Oregonian The Oregonian
sunrise_heights.JPGBob Ellis/The OregonianA playground and hoop center was completed in 2005 off SE Misty Drive in the Sunrise Heights subdivision at SE 152nd Drive and SE Sunnyside Road. The developer put in the play area before crews begin building new homes on the southern slopes of Happy Valley

HAPPY VALLEY — A proposal to bring more than 200 apartments to the Sunrise Heights neighborhood by early summer has met with support from the city and the local homeowners association — a sign that times are changing in Happy Valley.

“The city of Happy Valley needs to have a variety of housing,” said Michael Walter, economic and community director. “The majority of the city is large single-family detached housing, but the market has shown that’s pretty much unsustainable.”

The proposed apartment complex is to be built in an area between Southeast Sunnyside Boulevard and Southeast Misty Drive that is zoned for multifamily homes. The development was proposed by Polygon Northwest of Vancouver, which has built homes in the Villebois development in Wilsonville and at the Lakeview at Progress Ridge development in Beaverton.

“Happy Valley is a strong community, which is what we look for, and with the strong demand for apartments in the area, this is a good investment,” said Fred Gast, president of Polygon Northwest.

A new revenue source

With any construction project comes the opportunity for jobs, fees, taxes and socioeconomic benefits, Walter said. This rings true for the city’s newest approved project.

System development charges and building permit fees are charged per unit in multifamily housing projects, so the Polygon development has the capacity to bring the city and Clackamas County millions of dollars in revenue.

The Happy Valley Building Department recently increased its development fees by 50 percent, but most of the revenue from the proposed apartment complex would be collected in the form of system development charges and would go to the county.

“This is a very significant project for the city, and even though the majority of funds go to the (taxation) districts, it’s not an inconsequential amount for Happy Valley as well,” Walter said.

Hawks Ridge Apartments, at Sunnyside Boulevard and Southeast 162nd, is the only other apartment complex within city limits, but Walter said Hawks Ridge and the Polygon development are not going to be the last apartment complexes. The city realized long ago that the market would demand more multifamily housing and that such projects bring in large amounts of revenue, so it zoned accordingly, Walter said.

“There’s many acres of land within the city waiting for multifamily development,” Walter said. “This is just the first project in recent years to take advantage of that.”

Recreation, traffic fears

A public hearing on the proposed development in late March brought out eight to 10 area homeowners who expressed concerns with the proposed development, including its impact on traffic and schools. Mark Boring, speaking on behalf of the Sunrise Heights Homeowners Association, wanted to make clear that the group did not dislike the overall proposal — just a few of its specifics.

In particular, Boring said, the homeowners association was concerned about minimal recreational areas within the proposed apartment complex and the impact that might have on nearby play areas that are privately maintained through homeowners association fees.

The city requires multiunit complexes to have recreational areas, and Polygon proposed several, including trails, pull-up bars and a large chess board.

Boring said those weren’t enough, and the association was concerned that apartment residents would use privately funded parks without being responsible for upkeep costs.

“In the big scheme of things this is small potatoes, but still a concern,” Boring said.

Gast said the company would be responding to those concerns in coming weeks and would work with the homeowners association to come to a consensus.

“We are always open to input that will make a development better and will take what the HOA says into consideration,” he said.

Members of the homeowners association also raised traffic concerns about what they said is already a problematic intersection at Southeast Misty and Southeast 152nd.

They hope to have a discussion with the developer and possibly the city to address safety at the intersection and how it will be modified to handle increased traffic volume.

Any formal appeal of Polygon’s proposed development is due by Tuesday.

Natalie Feulner; twitter: @hppyvlyreporter

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