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Different socioeconomic conditions. Different problems. And now, different neighborhood associations.
After months of discussions, residents of the Harney Heights Neighborhood Association in Vancouver voted overwhelmingly to split into two groups last week. The association’s north side will secede and pick a new name, in hopes of better serving its 2,500 residents.
Harney Heights residents voted 28-4 in favor of breaking into two associations during an April 4 meeting held inside the library at Martin Luther King Elementary, 4801 Idaho St.
North-side residents, who live below a bluff near Fourth Plain Boulevard, made up the bulk of the meeting’s attendees. The area is largely populated by renters and has been a haven for gangs and violence, residents said. Their south-side neighbors, who live on the bluff near Mill Plain Boulevard, are generally homeowners and encounter less violent crime.
The new association must now hold a meeting, select officers, create bylaws and file paperwork with the city of Vancouver. The city will send residents postcards with the time and place before the first meeting, said Cynthia Powers, a north-side resident who formerly served as Harney Heights’ secretary/treasurer.
John Rogers and Norris Acres are possible names for the new association, Powers added. The new association will also incorporate the north portion of the Central Park Neighborhood Association.
North-side residents described the split as amicable, but said the change was needed to better confront the crime that has swept through their area.
“It’s a good thing,” Sharon Gutz said, “because they have much different problems than we do down by Fourth Plain and (East 18th Street).”
The list Gutz recited included graffiti, vandalism, car prowls and break-ins.
Those are hardly her area’s only problems though. Stabbings, shootings and arson have also occurred in her neighborhood, Gutz added.
At the meeting’s outset, residents folded small white pieces of paper with either a checked yes or no and placed them in a black bowl. The votes were tallied while Chris Blair, a noise management planner at the Port of Portland, made a presentation on why airplanes approach and depart Portland International Airport in the direction they do.
After Blair answered audience questions, association chairwoman Joni Whipple revealed the vote.
She described the result as “kind of surprising with all the discussion we’ve been having.” Prior meetings suggested opinions on the split were closer to 50-50.
Following the vote’s announcement, Whipple reported dates to remember for Harney Heights. They included the neighborhood picnic at St. Helens Park on July 11 and neighborhood cleanup day at King Elementary on July 14. Both events, she noted, are open to north-side residents no longer in the association.
“This is going to take time, for the new neighborhood to get on their feet,” she told the audience.