Members of the MTCY&NPG meet with Susan McKenney from the Bureau of Development Services.

Members of the MTCY&NPG meet with Susan McKinney, Supervising Planner for the Bureau of Development Services.

I was able to participate in the meeting with the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) yesterday, September 10, to discuss whether or not the construction of a new maintenance yard and nursery is “accessory” or “non-conforming” use.  There was much back on forth on what the different categorizations mean to this process, so my understanding is only one point of view.  This is what I got out of the conversation and the repercussions for MTCY&NPG:

If deemed “accessory,” we continue along the path we’ve been traveling along – which is to update the yard and give the employees a safe, efficient working space on land that has been used for the same purposes for a while now.  As a group, we’ve highlighted the need to minimize the footprint, and I think we have been rewarded by Opsis’ designs.  Regardless of which option is chosen, an accessory use would allow Parks to continue with the same services the yard provides, as well as add some to increase efficiency.  An accessory use would keep us on pace to complete the project in the time frame we agreed to.

If the update is deemed “non-conforming” use, the redesign would trigger a land use review because zoning would need to be updated/adjusted.  This is about all I could comprehend (if I could comprehend it all).  It would definitely add time and layers to our work.

My take is that I think as the MTCY&NPG, we can trust that the partnership we’ve built will watch-dog this process and deliver what it promises. I agree with what Maija said in the meeting with BDS – that if the update was categorized as accessory use, it would change nothing about the transparency of this process.

I think we’re laying the foundation for an equitable process for all issues concerning Mt. Tabor.  And 10 – 15 years from now, when a cherished Portland business approaches Mayor Kennedy-Wong with grand visions of building bowling alleys and cyber cafés at the summit, she will 1) stick her fingers in her ears, and 2) personally escort them to the monthly meeting of the Mt Tabor Neighborhood Association to meet with neighbors first before coming to her.

I have great faith in this process.

My concern, however, is when this tight knit group dissipates – whether in 16 years, or 30 years.  If we don’t legally and ritualistically dot our Is and cross our Ts through all the red tape, are we setting up the next generation for heart break when the City realizes that they can designate anything done to Mt. Tabor an accessory use?

Maybe not, because Mt. Tabors neighbors are so thorough.  But how about at other Portland parks where neighbors don’t have the luxury of monitoring all that happens in their parks – they don’t have research teams who are adept at understanding city policy?  Are we doing them a disservice by skirting the rules?

I hesitate because of the interaction we had with Greg from the Water Bureau (see my previous post on that issue).  Once it’s out of the hands of 40+ dedicated community members, the system will continue to produce the same results by trying to make/save a buck. It’s our nature… I hate to admit that I’d end up drinking cappuccinos and bowling a couple frames at the Summit Cafe and Bowling Alley.

If I’ve miscomprehended the terms accessory and non-conforming (or anything else), please let me know and I can make the appropriate changes.