Whoa, for months the leaders of the Cully and Concordia Neighborhood Associations have been rallying volunteers to fight the planned rezone of the Colwood golf course (follow the controversy and see some sweet maps here) and tonight the City Council gave them a pretty huge straw-vote victory. After two hours of testimony from both rezone-supporters--who want the 150-acre Northeast golf course turned into industrial land and a park--and opponents who want the whole course to remain officially open space, the Council unanimous voted (in a non-binding, "just checking in!" vote) against the rezone.
Here's how it went down: The council chambers were packed. By the time the meeting started, the only seating space left was in the balcony. Thirteen people signed up to testify in support of the rezone and 24 neighbors wearing "Keep Colwood Green!" stickers signed up to speak against the rezone. That all adds up to a very long meeting for everyone--except for Mayor Potter, who wasn't there, and especially acute for mayor-elect Sam Adams, who just arrived back from a trip to China this morning.
The basic plan presented to the Council is that the Colwood owners want to turn their financially ailing golf course into 115 acres of industrial space and a 22 acre park, plus they'd donate $100,000 to the City to maintain the newly public park. Major supporters of the rezone who spoke were representatives from the PDC, the Port of Portland and the Portland Business Alliance. They made some really good points: The golf course is surrounded by industrial land and busy roads so it wouldn't make a great park. Plus, while Portland has good amount industrial land, undeveloped lots over 50 acres are rare, they say, and new development there (like a solar power company? eh? eh?) could bring an estimated 1,900 jobs to the neighborhood. There's also the basic philosophical argument, as laid out by the owners' lawyer, "If the zone is not changed, the Parks Department is essentially demanding that a private landowner be forced to maintain an unprofitable business just to keep it as open space."
After most of the supporters' testimony, I found Concordia neighborhood activist Tony Fuentes sitting on the floor at the back of the chambers, swiftly sticking Post-It notes on a giant black binder of notes spread out on the carpet in front of him. "This is absurd!" he whispered to me, "The kind of restrictions ODOT is putting on that site, there's no way they'd create 2,000 jobs! No way!"
I've given some space to the neighbors' arguments before, so check them out in depth at their website, but here's the 32-word summary: Huge potential for the city to make an awesome park at Colwood! Open space is better than industry, especially along the river! There's no transportation infrastructure to support so many jobs there!
Apparently the council agrees. The rezone supporters have seven days to submit more information to support their arguments and then the council votes for real in October.