Who’s Right? Whose Rights?5 min read
Whose rights prevail: property owners and residents or the broader community? Who has the preponderance of truth and facts? A neighborhood problem requires us to gather information and solve problems together to serve the most people possible.
Currently, abusive behaviors around a community path at the Greenway Townhouses, located where Park Avenue intersects with River Road, led to the path closure. When the townhouse project planning was underway, one of the property owners wrote to me in 2011, “…we are planning on enhancing the existing bike/pedestrian path from Park through our property [to the street that leads] to the West Bank Trail. We will be aligning the path better with the crossing at River Road and landscaping it with an infiltration rain garden for a much more pleasant connection through our project.”
A fence has been erected to close the community path. Townhouse owners provided these reasons for the fence. “Over the past few years, we’ve had (as have many River Road area residents) increasing crime, garbage, and feces on our property. People have left needles, garbage, and human feces in the stormwater planter and behind and around our dumpster. Cars in our parking lot have been broken into as well.
Late last fall, our landscapers had two men on bicycles try to steal their backpack leaf blowers. When our landscapers tried to retrieve the blowers, they were physically assaulted and beaten.…We subsequently learned that a person in [the adjacent] subdivision was stabbed a while back as well.”
Neighbors I heard from agree the Townhouses have been an asset to the community as “demonstrated by the quality and context-sensitive designs…they have built.” Neighbors appreciate the attractive landscaping, quality construction, and good property maintenance.
The broader neighborhood believes it has the right to access the river via this community path as they have for a decade or more. Because it is located at a signal light, it provides a safe intersection to cross traffic. The path and Stephens Drive, the street to the river, are well maintained and have little vehicle traffic, therefore, that access is perceived to be safe. Another path to the south in Rasor Park has been called an ‘ambling’ path. Neighbors requested that this Park path be narrowed from what was planned, and it meanders through the Park. Thus, bicyclists have assessed the Rasor path is not a safe for use. Another access to the River is a block north of the townhouses via Stults. With vehicle traffic and other criminal incidents, pedestrians and bicyclists do not view it to be safe. For seniors and less able people, families with strollers or toddlers, diverting from the townhouse path to a path to the north or south seems difficult. The townhouse path has the most direct and safe connection to the West Bank Trail.
A meeting convened by River Road Community Organization Co-Chair Jon Belcher was held on Wednesday, April 14, at the townhouse location. Eugene Senior Transportation Planner Reed Dunbar, both owners of the townhouses, two neighboring owners, and a representative from Eugene Police attended. Guesstimates of attendance ranged from 20 to 45 people.
Participants commented about the meeting:
- Four or five irate people, lots of listeners, some seeing the problem from both sides, and people not taking turns.
- A few angry and belligerent neighbors at the meeting frequently interrupted and vented their feelings.
- Calmer voices tried to facilitate a more productive conversation.
- People are passionate and that was exhibited in a variety of ways. It was a very charged atmosphere.
- Like most meetings, some listened and processed the information well, some got focused on one issue and could not get past that, and a couple of others became agitated and were not willing to wait their turn to speak.
- The meeting was useful as it began a needed community conversation. People needed to vent, but they should take turns.
People were unhappy as the meeting seemed impromptu, with poor noticing. Being adjacent to River Road made it difficult to hear with noisy rush hour traffic and a bunch of loud people on the other side of the fence. An hour and a half meeting in the hot sun with no place for seniors to sit and not adhering to pandemic protocols made it unconducive to thoughtful discussion.
People at the meeting agreed that a committee would be formed to discuss solutions and make proposals. Suggestions were that another meeting occur in a quiet space with ground rules for a listening session to hear all neighbors, not just a few. Various solutions suggested for this committee to consider were fencing and gates with various access times; permanent closure of easement path; install restroom facilities on West Bank Trail; and redirect people to easement path, Rasor Park path, or Stults Ave. Install a flashing pedestrian crossing on River Road at the Rasor Park walkway. Neighbors want to be notified of future closures so decision making can occur.
Most people agreed that immediate neighbors are extremely happy with reduction in crime from closure of the pathway. They have experience significant improvements in safety and hygiene. Safety of townhouse tenants and maintenance are important. If the pathway were reopened, it is anticipated that the problems would reoccur.
Transportation Planner Reed Dunbar stated that “The fence will remain in place until a solution has been reached that identifies appropriate access to the Riverbank Path and provides improved safety to property owners. There is no timeline, however, any permanent changes that may occur are anticipated to be completed within the 2021 calendar year.” This is from Transportation Planner Reed Dunbar.
A question remains as to whether the easement is for transportation or utilities and maintenance along the property line. Adjacent neighbors discovered the easement is solely for utilities and maintenance and…specifically state that they do not “constitute a dedication or grant for public use.”
Participants asked for more law enforcement services, but two-thirds of River Road households are not city residents. Eugene is not obligated to provide law enforcement or other urban services when people do not pay taxes.
Who’s right and whose rights will prevail? We need to get to the root of the problem to resolve the community path permanently. Each person has a piece of the truth that needs to be puzzled together to get a complete picture. Be on the lookout for good information so we can make good decisions together.
Carleen Reilly has lived in the River Road neighborhood for over 40 years. She served on the RRCO board of directors from 2007-2013, and has been involved over the years with the Joint Strategy Team (JuST), the Santa Clara-River Road Outreach and Learning project (SCRROL), and the Santa Clara-River Road Implementation Planning Team (SCRRIPT)
She publishes a weekly e-newsletter called “River Road Community Resource Group Newsletter” that focuses on land use, transportation, parks and open spaces, economic development, and Community interests as they are related to neighborhood planning activities in conjunction with the Santa Clara neighborhood. If you would like to subscribe, you can contact Carleen at: carleenr [at] gmail [dot] com.