Neighborhood Beat • Activists allege ulterior motive in changing land-use designation
BY STEVE LAW
The Portland Tribune, December 4, 2008
You might call this story: Pesky Mount Tabor Park Neighbors vs. City Bureaucrats, Round III.
In recent years, neighborhood activists fended off a Portland Water Bureau plan to enclose Mount Tabor Park’s open-air reservoirs. Then they foiled a Portland Parks & Recreation deal — which parks officials initially denied existed — to sell off the dilapidated parks maintenance facility and nursery at Mount Tabor to Warner Pacific College.
Now, after a city-hired mediator helped mend fences with neighbors, a citizen planning group has blessed a $60 million-plus project to rebuild the park maintenance yard and nursery rather than relocate them. The consensus design heads for City Council approval Dec. 17.
But the same activists who sniffed out the Warner Pacific deal say they smell a rat.
Though those activists support the proposed new maintenance yard, they are raising a stink about the city’s change, in the midst of project planning, of its land-use designation for the maintenance yard, a complex of workshops, warehouse and other space.
They fear the city’s reclassification of the maintenance yard from a “nonconforming use” to an “accessory use” was designed to make it easier for the city to make future changes on the site — or other park sites in the future — without a citizen review.
“The park’s more threatened now than it was before this process,” said Shannon Loch, who lives across the street from the nursery.
“It has traditionally, for years and years, been considered nonconforming,” said neighbor Mark Bartlett, “but it’s politically convenient to consider it accessory because it allows anything to go on there.”