Economics, security cited as reasons against trail

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 26th, 2006 at 10:04 pm

[For reference, here are the previous posts on this issue:
Springwater development may nix trail improvement
Springwater development update

This morning I spoke with Wayne Kingsley, the owner on record of the land being purchased by SK Northwest. Wayne is a well-known local businessman and president of American Waterways, Inc. owner and operator of the Portland Spirit cruise ship that runs on the Willamette.

While Kingsley can't speak for SK Northwest (they haven't returned my call), he was able to illustrate for me the concerns he has for allowing a recreational trail to go through the property.

First of all, as noted by the BTA's Evan Manvel in this comment, there is no official existing easement across this property. What exists is a loosely drawn recreational trail designation by the City that has no legal footing. According to Kingsley what usually happens in cases like this is that the City negotiates something from the developer to get the trail, although the developer is in no way obligated to allow the trail to be built. His words were that the City would try to "extract the trail" from the transaction.

If this is true, than I guess we just have to hope that SK Northwest wants work with the City to make the trail happen.

Besides the easement technicality, Kingsley said his main concerns with a recreational trail are economics and security.

Looking at the lot to be developed (which he said has been designated as "shovel-ready" by the City in order to develop the industrial sector), Kingsley estimated that building an adequate recreational trail would effectively take away 1/4 of the usable land (5,000 square feet or approx. $100,000). So in his mind, since there's no existing legal obligation for the trail, this would be like asking SK Northwest to "donate $100,000 to the public to put a trail on their property."

So far, It doesn't sound like SK Northwest is willing to do this.

Kingsley also brought up security as a reason against any future trail. At the moment, the adjacent property (owned by Portland Spirit) falls under federal regulations as part of the post 9/11 Maritime Transportation Security Act. As such, according to Kingsley, running a public trail facility through this property would, "make it difficult to secure the property boundary."

At the end of our conversation Kingsley made the point that while this is very important to trail users, there are many Portlanders who would also appreciate a conveniently located place to test ride and purchase personal watercraft access the services of SK Northwest.

I can see both sides. While I am passionate that public greenways should have priority over commercial businesses that sell gas-guzzling, polluting machines, I also realize that business is business and people have a right to do whatever they want with their private property.

I guess the ball is in SK Northwest's court and all we can do is try and convince them to see the light.

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  • Scout April 27, 2006 at 2:52 am

    I had no idea that the company was simply being asked to "give up" the property. As much as I'd like a continuation of the trail, it hardly seems fair. However, are there no ear-marked funds for such contingencies? Is it possible to raise money to buy SK Northwest out of the property? Would they even sell if the money could be raised?

    It's one thing not to force someone to donate their property, but it's another thing completely if they STILL insist upon being stubborn when offered due compensation. To whom can we write letters begging for money?

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  • elljay April 27, 2006 at 6:07 am

    "... conveniently located place to test ride and purchase personal watercraft."

    So he admits that it will be a retail outlet?

    While not specifically a bike-related issue, there are still many concerns, especially related to the dock facility and concentrated PWC use in the area. Mr. Houck's letter (posted Tuesday) and others to the City describe the potential regarding wakes and impact to habitat, and consistency with long-standing plans for Ross Island and Holgate Slough, and safety of non-motorized river users. Many of these fall under rules specific to the Willamette River Greenway, mandated by the state and implemented by the City.

    While it appears the bike path issue may be a no-win, the human-powered watersports groups and the environmental conservation groups would still appreciate the support of the bike community.

    Nobody is saying SK is a bad company. It's more that their proposal is a good idea in the wrong place. Sort of like a Harley dealer locating on a neighborhood street, adjacent to a school.

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  • Jonathan Maus April 27, 2006 at 6:25 am


    you said: "So he admits that it will be a retail outlet?".

    This is my mistake and I will clarify it in the post. Kingsley was making the point that there are many people who will appreciate the new SK Northwest location. He didn't say specifically that they would be test-riding or purchasing at this location. I should not have made that assumption.

    Sorry for the confusion.

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  • Stephen Frenkel April 27, 2006 at 7:12 am

    At a meeting of the Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood Association on April 18, Shawn Karambelas of SK Northwest indicated his plans to build both a retail shop and a workshop facility.

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  • Frank Dufay April 27, 2006 at 7:40 am

    What exists is a loosely drawn recreational trail designation by the City that has no legal footing.

    I'm not sure what "no legal footing" means. The easement and building of the trail is a city-code requirement in return for developing the parcel.

    Kingsley estimated that building an adequate recreational trail would effectively take away 1/4 of the usable land

    SK Nothwest's attorney, writes that the easement equals "approximately 4,560 sq ft, or six percent of the site."

    I had no idea that the company was simply being asked to “give up” the property. As much as I’d like a continuation of the trail, it hardly seems fair.

    What SK Northwest gets in return is private access and use of the river. Included in the plans are boat slips SK Northwest intends to rent out to recreational boaters.

    Included below is the letter our HAND board is submitting to the Bureau of Development Services:

    Date: April 27, 2006

    Kate Green, Land Use Services
    City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services
    1900 SW Fourth Ave., Suite 5000
    Portland, OR 97201

    Re: LU 05-178171 - Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association (HAND) comments on the development proposal at 240 SE Caruthers St.

    Dear Ms. Green,

    The HAND board, at our meeting on April 18, voted unanimously to oppose the requested exemption on the easement and trail and therefore cannot support this land use application in our neighborhood at this time.

    The HAND board strongly supports the need for connectivity between the Eastside Esplanade and the Springwater Trail. These represent tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure investment. Title 33.270.020 clearly requires the granting of an easement and constructing the trail, and the City needs to enforce this requirement, and we support the City doing so vigorously. This is an important window of opportunity to add to connectivity.

    SK Northwest was kind enough to send a representative to our HAND board meeting to answer questions. One of our questions was why so many boat slips in the dock as proposed.

    Richard Allan, of Ball Janik, writes in his March 24, 2006 letter to you:

    “ The applicant proposes to construct a dock that will be used solely for testing water craft in conjunction with service or sales. It will not be open to the general public and will not be used for recreational boat launch purposes.”

    However, what SK Northwest told our Neighborhood Association board on April 18 was that they intend to lease a substantial number of boat slips to visiting pleasure craft that can’t find moorage at the often filled Riverplace Marina.

    While our Board takes no position on the viability of using this dock for such a public purpose, it does suggest a very clear legally required nexus between the applicant’s proposed development, and the code-required dedication of a greenway trail. The intent to lease slip spaces to recreational boaters most certainly adds both a “public” and “recreational” component to this application. This is not an “exaction” for some unrelated public purpose, but precisely what the code intends to accomplish, which is improved access to the river and greenway, for both our neighborhood, SK Northwest’s customers, and the citizens of this city who have already invested tens of millions of dollars for other segments of this trail. The applicant’s requirement to dedicate six percent of the site is hardly “grossly disproportionate” as Richard Allan alleges, it is rather a small obligation in return for the access to --and use of-- our river.

    Frank Dufay, Land Use & Transportation Chair, on behalf of the HAND board.

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  • Tim April 27, 2006 at 9:29 am

    Maybe I'm missing something here, but isn't the current route that everyone takes fine? Follow the river past Omsi, turn left, turn right. Isn't this just an issue of a block or two? I have no problems with it. I just want the area directly across the river straightened out and made more bike friendly.

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  • Frank Dufay April 27, 2006 at 10:23 am

    turn left, turn right. Isn’t this just an issue of a block or two?

    Not really. There is a serious problem with trucks parking across the sidewalk and sometimes even blocking the street. There is lots of loose gravel and debris, and this will get worse as Water Ave is re-routed.

    The construction site boundary for the East Side Combined Sewer Overflow is between the southern end of OMSI and SE Caruthers, through 2011. In addition, more traffic will be routed through here when the MLK viaduct is demolished this year, and later rebuilt.

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  • Ethan April 27, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    I would also like to comment of the larger issue, which is Mr Kingsley's desire to also avoid having to make the same improvements to the adjacent Portland Spirit headquarters. His assertions that maritime "Homeland Security" regulations make the trail problematic there . . . seem to be a convenient way to avoid the whole issue. I suspect the real genesis of this is his overall desire to torpedo (no pun intended) this trail section altogether. We Portlanders have been fine with his passengers using the waterfront park to embark and disembark, but apparently it's too big a hassle for him to return the favor.

    Everyone who is "inconvenienced" by the prospect should ride the trail and see what seemingly insurmountable obstacles have already been overcome; the Steele Bridge, I-5 etc. By this measure, designing around the trail, and even figuring a way to safely transit the Ross Island docks (which probably are not going anywhere soon) should be within the realm of possibility.

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  • Aaron April 27, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Briefly I would like to second Eljay and Ethan's comments. Both well said and succinct.

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  • Scout April 28, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    Frank, thanks for clarifying. That's a great letter, and now I understand the situation better. I also agree that the current trail is a mess. Blind corners, gravel everywhere, trucks pulling in and out? It always strikes me as an accident waiting to happen.

    Also, Ethan, I think you hit the nail on the head with the Portland Spirit issue. I think that everyone's interests can easily be served, from cyclists to security, if all the groups concerned were willing to work together. I see the neighborhood groups and cycling advocates offering compromises and ideas, but what about the flip side of the coin?

    I fear that in the end, whatever happens, someone is going to get bent out of shape. Am I just acting like a daft hippy when I wonder what could be accomplished with cooperation?

    Yeah, I thought so...

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  • Randy April 28, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    We wouldn't want anyone to get bent out of shape now, would we? After all, this is warm and fuzzy Portland. The other way to look at this is: the squeaky wheel gets greased. Mr. Kingsley is being the uncooperative party here, and SK Northwest's attorney also has a huge conflict of interest, since he sits on at least one Bureau of Development Services committee representing the interests of the City.

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  • Lenny Anderson May 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    If SK is let off the hook, you can forget ever getting the Greenway done anywhere along the river where industrial/river related uses transition to non-industrial uses/river related or otherwise.

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  • Jonathan Maus May 1, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    I agree with you Lenny. I know the tone of this post was pretty docile toward SK and Kingsley.

    I am trying to know all the facts on this situation without presuming things that are still unclear and jumping to conclusions.

    While I respect their rights as property owners, I will vehemently oppose their plans to use personal watercraft on this section of the river.

    I have met with several people and learned more since this post. I hope to write an update soon.

    I think this is a very serious issue that needs further scrutiny. If anyone has any official information please come forward.

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  • Frank Dufay May 1, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    If anyone has any official information please come forward.

    The comment period closed last week, so now we're just waiting for a decision from Bureau of Development Services.

    Shawn of SK Northwest will be meeting with the Central Eastside Industrial Committee tomorrow afternoon. HAND is represented on that committee, and I'll report back on what happens there.

    Randy was earlier alluding to SK Northwest's attorney, Richard Allan. I was surprised to learn he also sits as the Chair of the City's "Adjustments Committee" which hears appeals on land use issues...so he both decides on land-use issues and argues them to City staff on behalf of clients? Doesn't sound like a healthy arrangement to me.

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  • brock May 1, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    "Randy was earlier alluding to SK Northwest’s attorney, Richard Allan. I was surprised to learn he also sits as the Chair of the City’s “Adjustments Committee” which hears appeals on land use issues…so he both decides on land-use issues and argues them to City staff on behalf of clients? Doesn’t sound like a healthy arrangement to me."

    If this is true, someone call Willamette Week! They'd just eat that up...

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  • [...] He was clearly frustrated by the community push-back he has received so far and I could sense the anxiety in his voice. I had to re-assure him several times that I wasn’t out to get him and that I just wanted to find out more about his intentions. What I heard from Karambelas is that he came into this deal initially willling work with the City of Portland on the trail easement issue. However, the person he’s buying the property from, Wayne Kingsley (more on Kingsley), has added a clause in the purchase contract that says Karambelas must fight against the trail if he wants to buy the property. According to Karamebelas: “Kingsley has made it crystal clear to me that he doesn’t want a trail across this property. Initially I wanted to work out a deal with the city, but he (Kingsley) put a new clause in the contract that said if I continued to want the propery I must agree to fight the trail. Basically my hands are tied, I’m screwed.” [...]

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