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Thursday, November 30, 2023
Nov. 30, 2023

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Vancouver City Council reviews traffic concerns for development at former Fisher Quarry

Residents worry project will burden already busy road

By , Columbian business reporter

The Riverview Gateway redevelopment project is a massive undertaking that will transform the western half of the former Fisher Quarry into a mixed-use community, but the plan still has a ways to go before winning approval.

The former quarry site sits to the north of State Highway 14 and is bisected by Southeast 192nd Avenue. The entire area is subject to a master plan for redevelopment, and the eastern half of the site, known as Columbia Palisades, has been in development for the past few years. Vancouver-based Hurley Development is taking the lead on the still-undeveloped western half.

The Vancouver City Council held a workshop Monday afternoon to check in on the status of the western project, which is now being referred to as Headquarters or HQ in plans submitted by Hurley and architecture firm Otak (the Riverview Gateway name refers to the overall site).

City staff fielded a number of questions from council members and nearby residents about the configuration of the site, particularly regarding its central park area and a proposed 165-unit multi-family housing project at the northern end.

Northern connection

The north edge property — referred to as Lot 30 in the project planning documents — sits at the top of a bluff that runs along the north side of the former quarry site. Unlike the rest of the proposed development, which would be served by a network of roads connecting directly to Southeast 192nd Avenue, the Lot 30 project would connect to Southeast 41st Drive to the north.

Several residents of the surrounding Fisher’s Creek neighborhood wrote to the council expressing concern that the proposed Lot 30 building would funnel too much additional traffic through 41st Drive, which they characterized as already strained and one of the few access routes into the neighborhood.

Fisher’s Creek Neighborhood Association chair Steven Haygood wrote in an Aug. 15 letter that the northern building should connect to the road network in the rest of the development to the south instead.

“We do not feel our community should have to bear the burden of increased transportation safety risks, residential traffic and potential street parking issues for a development plan that has significant space and infrastructure to support their units on their own lot,” he wrote.

Council members Sarah Fox and Erik Paulsen mentioned the comments during the workshop and quizzed city staff about whether the city had sold any property to the developers to facilitate the 41st Drive connection, as some of the letters suggested.

Streets and transportation manager Ryan Lapossa said that the developers had originally asked for an easement across a piece of city-owned property at the top of the bluff to connect to 41st Drive, but staff found that the city only needed a small portion of the parcel for storm water treatment purposes and asked the developer to consider purchasing the remainder.

That transaction has not happened yet, he said, because the property would need to go through the city’s surplus process and get clearance from the council. The project will also require a traffic analysis to calculate the impact of the condos on 41st Drive, he said, and the city will need to talk with the applicant about mitigation efforts if the study finds that the traffic would be a problem.

Other concerns

Council member Ty Stober noted that both halves of the former quarry fall under a single master plan for redevelopment, and he expressed concern that the 2016 development agreement for the eastern portion undermined part of the intent of the master plan.

He said he had similar misgivings about the western half, stating that the plan presented Monday appeared to meet the technical requirements but “doesn’t feel like it meets the spirit of the subarea plan. He described the existing development proposal as “a giant parking lot interrupted by buildings,” and called for the city to keep the broader plan in mind when evaluating the project.

Fox also called for the project’s affordable housing component to be more fleshed out before the project comes back to council, with a clearer plan for how to make sure the affordable housing component is included.

The Planning Commission will review both the master plan and the development agreement for the project at a planned Oct. 12 meeting, after which the project will return to the city council for a public hearing.

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Columbian business reporter