Oregon City Council next month will consider the application of a Special Use Exemption (SUE) for a lot at the northeast corner of Navarre Avenue and Wynn Road for the development of a small strip mall.
Plans also call for a gas station, according to Mayor Mike Seferian.
“I know at different times, this might become a little bit of a topic amongst residents and some people in the city of whether that’s a proper use for that piece of property,” said Seferian. The parcel faced foreclosure years ago following several attempts to purchase it, he added.
“Each of those attempts had failed. Now there’s an agreement to try and put that property to use,” he said.
The Plan Commission will review the application before making a recommendation to council, which will likely vote on it on Sept. 22.
Seferian said the city has to decide whether to control “how retail chooses to purchase property.”
“We have to make a decision how we enter into the control or lack of control of how retail chooses to do business in our city. I’ve explained to many people who live in the Park Place condos that maybe it’s not the business you would most desire to be in front of your property, but it might not be the least desirable venture either. So the only way you could control the destiny of the property around you is to own it. I just want to make council aware that this is coming up, and you will be facing a decision. I’m sure there will be strong feelings - in some instances - against this proposal. Do you really want to be in that position to control the destiny of how the retail goes in here. There is a demand to put that parcel into action. We’re going to face a few of those challenges as applications for a couple of the parcels come up over the next few years. We have to be united on how we pursue each one of them because we have to be known as the community that treats retail business fairly,” said Seferian.
Administrator Mike Beazley said the parcel needs a special or conditional use because of the gas station.
“If you look at the proposed development for this corner, almost all the uses proposed would be automatically allowed without any permit,” he said. “The strip mall could be carried out or put in without seeking an additional permit of any kind. But a gas station in Oregon is always either a conditional use or a special use depending on where you’re locating it. In a C-5, it is a special use.” Other commercially zoned property would require a conditional use, he added.
“A gas station itself is always something that either comes to the plan commission for a special or conditional approval or ultimately to a council,” he said.
The developers do not need any waivers or setbacks, he said.
“It comes with fewer strings than some. I don’t think in this case there would be exceptions allowed – no setback or buffering reductions. Everything in their proposal will fit within the footprint and the parameters of our code, but a gas station is always either a conditional or special use because of the consideration of the impact of that use,” said Beazley.
Councilman James Seaman said the gas station would attract more customers to the strip mall and is needed for its success.
“Maybe a strip mall has a better chance if there’s a gas station,” he said. “It rounds out the ability of that strip to be economically viable. That’s part of the total picture to make the strip successful. Sometimes, that’s the way an entrepreneur looks at things. We have to keep that in mind.”
“You’re exactly right because when you’re building a strip mall…you’re looking for traffic flow into your complex. They know a service station usually provides, for the most part, an essential part of someone’s budget,” said Seferian.
Councilman Tim Zale, though, said the city’s master plan had wanted to keep more retail businesses west of Wynn Road.
“I’ve never personally equated a gas station with going shopping. I don’t see the relevancy there,” said Zale. “I’m not opposed, necessarily, to a gas station, potentially coming to that area. When I look at the idea of a strip mall being added to that, we can’t fill the areas of retail inside the city with strip malls now versus putting one in a location way out there. I don’t know if that area personally is ready for development of that kind.”
He expected a lot of opposition to the zoning change.
“It’s in my neighborhood and I have received a lot of calls of concern from neighbors,” he said.
He also said it is council’s responsibility to “somewhat regulate” what type of businesses go into certain locations.
“We have to be cautions about how we do that, I agree, because we don’t want to interfere with good development in the city. But at the same time, I do think it is incumbent upon us to somewhat regulate businesses and where they are going to be in the city,” he said.