A controversial planned unit development that could bring 45 duplexes to the eastern Lewiston Orchards got back on track Monday night when the Lewiston City Council declined to reduce its density or make other changes in response to opposition from neighbors.

The council voted 4-2 to approve the second reading of an ordinance to create the development concept proposed by Loris and Shann Profitt of Lewiston to build the disabled-friendly units on the east side of 21st Street between Grelle and Powers avenues over approximately 10 years.

But earlier this month, the council directed city staff to draft amendments to the plan that would reduce the density to eight units per acre, a number in line with the city’s comprehensive plan. The Profitts said that restriction and others considered at Monday’s meeting would kill the development, however.

Councilors John Pernsteiner and Jim Kleeburg supported the amendments. But others didn’t, including Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Schroeder. She said the Profitts worked with city staff over 19 months to put together the proposal, which won the approval of the Lewiston Planning and Zoning Commission.

“A planned unit is just that,” she said in support of the amount of work put into the development. “It’s planned.”

Councilor Cari Miller said she was initially concerned that the narrow width of the internal streets of the development would be difficult for large emergency vehicles like fire trucks to navigate. But she said those concerns were alleviated by fire department Chief Travis Myklebust, who signed off on the proposal.

Community Development Director Laura Von Tersch noted that about a third of the streets in the Orchards have only a 20-foot right-of-way, and didn’t see any problem with the streets proposed for the development.

Miller also said that big changes to a neighborhood can be positive, and people who want to avoid such changes can buy up surrounding property or choose to live in an area governed by a homeowners association with covenants and restrictions.

Pernsteiner expressed strong support for the Proffits’ efforts to build disabled housing in Lewiston but thought the development would change the neighborhood’s rural character too much.

“I agree with both sides, and there’s a lot of merit to both sides,” he said, noting his disagreement with a neighbor’s earlier statement that the development is illegal. “The question is not if we can, but should we? The right thing in the wrong place is still the wrong thing.”

Mayor Mike Collins said he had similar struggles with the issue and understood the concerns of the neighbors. But he concluded that the city can never make everyone happy and voted to advance the original proposal.

Kleeburg cited the voluminous opposition from neighbors at every step of the approval process in his vote against the original plan and agreed with Pernsteiner that the development is a good idea in a bad place.

The amendments under consideration would have reduced the density from 90 to 77 units; required the developer to enforce a homeowners association that would bar vehicle storage in overflow parking lots and at least one resident of each unit to be 55 or older; stipulate a certain percentage of disabled units; and require high-back instead of rolled curbs to discourage on-street parking.

The Profitts’ attorney, Ron Blewett, said those conditions would have been a dealbreaker. The council will have one more chance to make changes to the development when it considers a third reading of the ordinance and final approval, likely at its first regular meeting in July.

In other business, the council got a tour of the proposed outdoor reading space on the second floor of the Lewiston City Library during a budget work session earlier in the day. Lewiston Library Foundation President Marsha Creason told the council that the organization has raised about 85 percent of the approximately $500,000 needed to complete the space, which includes a stage that will expand the size of the library’s adjacent large meeting room.

If the council accepts the gift, construction could begin next year if bids are in line with architect estimates.

The council also appointed retired Lewis-Clark State College anthropology instructor Diana Ames to the Library Board of Trustees. Ames replaces Jan Johnson, who stepped down from the board to focus on the revival of the Liberty Theater on Main Street, according to Library Director Lynn Johnson.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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