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UPDATE: SK Northwest appeals permit decision, public hearing set

Posted by on June 20th, 2006 at 2:01 pm

[UPDATE: Download appeal JPEG, 94K.]

SK Northwest, the company that wants to develop a parcel on the Willamette River and not allow public trail access through their property, has appealed the recent denial of their development permit.

According to Kate Green of the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services, a public hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 12 at 1:30 PM (location TBA).

125 of you wrote letters opposing their initial application and we need to continue to show strong and well-informed opposition (see comments). We are up against some major firepower and some deep pockets, so please mark your calendars and consider attending this very important public hearing.

I have asked Kate Green for a copy of the appeal and I’ll keep you posted with any developments. Thanks to the 10 or so readers who have called and/or emailed me about this in the last few minutes! I really appreciate the help. Stay tuned.

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  • Evan Manvel June 20, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    One key note for people who attend this hearing (and yes, please do!):

    This is not a public hearing in the traditional city council vein. This is a Hearings Officer, who looks at legal criteria and whether they’ve been met. I think the City’s done a great job showing the failure of SK Devt to meet the criteria (or at least to provide sufficient information showing they have met those criteria).

    But if you’re going to testify, make sure you focus on whether the proposal meets the legal criteria, not just that you don’t like the idea. Hearings officers don’t care who likes or doesn’t like an idea. They rule on the law. Thanks!

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  • Jonathan Maus June 20, 2006 at 2:50 pm


    Thanks for that tip.

    So what impact can public opposition have in this case?

    Seems to me like this could be a very interesting legal battle of private property rights vs. people who are adversely impacted by how that property is developed.

    In the least, I think a large turn out will show the City and SK Northwest that we are very concerned not only about losing a possible trail link but about what this type of business will mean to livability and our experience of the riverfront.

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  • benschon June 20, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Evan is making a point about how advocates can be persuasive. Land use hearings are very legalistic and constrained at this level. A lot of off-topic testimony will have about zero impact on the Hearings Officer.

    Ineffective statements to make at the hearing:

    “I think bike trails are great.”

    “Portland needs to support biking.”

    “SK Northwest sucks.”

    Effective statements to make at the hearing:

    “The application doesn’t meet criterion X, because of reason Y.”

    “SK Northwest hasn’t provided enough information to satisfy criterion Z.”

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  • Evan Manvel June 20, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    That’s precisely it. I imagine the City would love to have lots of supporters show up, whether you end up testifying or not. But if you end up testifying, focus on the legal details, not the general ideas.

    Talk about how the proposal is inconsistent with the Greenway Plan, the Transportation System Plan, etc. Talk about how the proposed development has a nexus to the trail requirements, and how the requirements are proportionate to the development impacts (if lost in this legalese, google “nexus” and “rough proportionality” and “Dolan v. Tigard” and “takings” or “exaction,” and the like).

    FYI: Oregon’s land use system was supported by many developers when it was created for this exact reason: land use proposals are meant to be judged on whether they met objective criteria, not whether they were popular.

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  • Jonathan Maus June 20, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    OK, I hear you Ben.

    I guess what I was trying to convey is that there are a lot of people who will be adversely effected by this case and who oppose the development, but may not have the time to fully educate themselves on all the legal details prior to the hearing.

    But I agree that we all have a duty to educate ourselves if we feel strongly enough about something.

    I’ve got some reading to do….

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  • Frank Dufay June 20, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    Yeah…its about a lot of legalese. But I’d argue, too, its also about passion and values, and what’s right and wrong. When their attorney offers that the existing “temporary” connection between the end of the Esplanade and the Springwater Trail is “fine” that’s a value judgement, not legalese…its OK to respond by the users that the connection is dangerous and sucks and is NOT adequate. (I believe you can look up the meaning of “sucks” in Black’s Law Dictionary…) (OK, maybe not…)

    Anyway, we’ll –that’s Hosford-Abernethy, who’s neighborhood this is in– be there opposing this appeal with all the passion –AND legal arguments– we can muster. It’s a pleasure, I have to add, being on the side of the City on this one. I thought Kate did a great job.

    Frank Dufay
    HAND Land Use & Transportation Chair

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  • Jim Labbe June 23, 2006 at 10:46 am


    Great work in tracking the SK development. Jonathan, kudos to you for keeping the public informed and Evan for informing us on how to participate effectifvely by focusing comments on the established criteria.

    Thankfully citizens in the past have applied themselves to establish those criteria that give us a voice and stake in this decision.

    Not to siphon energy away from the pressing SK Northwest issue, but folks should be aware that the City is actually beginning the process re-examing those criteria- including standards governing trail design and alignment and water recreation along the Willamette.

    In February of this year the City Council adopted its River Concept Plan that provides a framework for a comprehensive update of the City’s 1987 Willamette Greenway Plan. The pending River Plan will seek to balance and integrate goals for protecting and using the river. This will include making changes to rules governing setbacks, heights, and public access associated with new development all along the entire length of the Willamette River within the City of Portland.

    I have pasted in below the most recent River Plan News which gives the latest details on the process.

    I encourage folks to get involved in this effort to ensure the public interest in trail access and natural resource protection are included in the new River Plan.

    R I V E R P L A N N E W S

    June 12, 2006
    Planning for the land along the Willamette River.
    City of Portland | Bureau of Planning

    1. Next River Plan Committee meeting in JULY (July 18)
    2. Willamette Technical Advisory Committee Convened
    3. Task Group Updates

    1. Next River Plan Committee meeting in JULY (July 18)

    The June River Plan Committee meeting has been cancelled. The next River Plan Committee meeting will be on Tuesday, July 18.

    The July meeting will include a presentation on the Portland Working Harbor
    Reinvestment Strategy interview results by Steve Kountz of the Planning
    Bureau and Greg Thiesen of the Port of Portland. Also on the agenda for the
    July meeting are several in-depth task group briefings to prepare the River
    Plan Committee for upcoming decisions on Trail Alignment, Bank Design and
    Permitting, and Water-Based Recreation.

    River Plan News will be sent out in July with a link to the full River Plan
    Committee meeting agenda.

    For the May meeting minutes, please visit the River Plan Committee website:


    River Plan Committee Meeting

    Tuesday, July 18

    5pm -7pm

    1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland, OR

    Fourth Floor, Room 4A

    2. Willamette Technical Advisory Committee Convened

    The Willamette Technical Advisory Committee is up and running! The Willamette TAC will serve as an information-sharing and problem solving
    forum for various City of Portland projects along the Willamette River-including the River Plan, the Working Harbor Reinvestment Strategy,
    the Willamette Industrial Urban Renewal Area Implementation Strategy, and the Portland Watershed Management Plan. Willamette TAC members include representatives from local, regional, state, and federal agencies. The City
    hopes that this multi-project TAC will lead to greater efficiencies and connections in project planning and implementation.

    The first Willamette TAC meeting will be held 9-11am on Tuesday, June 13 in Room C on the 2nd floor of the Portland Building (1120 SW 5th Avenue).

    3. Task Group Updates

    Watershed Health Task Group
    The third meeting of the Watershed Health Task Group is coming up this month:
    Tuesday, June 20
    3pm – 5pm
    1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland OR
    Second Floor, Room 2500A
    This meeting will focus on integrating watershed function into the built environment. Check the website for more information about the Watershed Health Task Group.

    Bank Design and Permitting Task Group

    The fourth meeting of the Bank Design Task Group is coming up this month:
    Wednesday, June 28
    9am -11am
    1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland OR
    Fourth Floor, Room 4A

    Greenway Trail Alignment Task Group
    The final meeting of the Greenway Trail Alignment Task Group is coming up in
    July. The group will be discussing and commenting on the staff proposal for
    the North Reach trail alignments.
    Wednesday, July 12
    5pm – 7pm
    1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland OR
    Fourth Floor, Room 4A
    Check the website for more information about the Greenway Trail Alignment Task Group. The meeting agenda will be posted a week prior to the meeting.

    Water-based Recreation Task Group

    The Water-Based Recreation Task Group completed its preliminary work at its most recent meeting on Tuesday, June 6. City staff is currently drafting a report to reflect the group’s discussions. The group will reconvene in July to comment on the report. Please see the next issue of River Plan News for information about the July meeting. Check the website for more information about the Water-based Recreation Task Group.


    Thanks to the Portland Oregon Visitors Association for hosting the meetings!

    Thank you for your interest in the River Plan!


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