Hearing set for new gas station on Navarre Ave.

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The City of Oregon has set a public hearing for Monday, April 24, for an application of a Special Use Exemption in a C-4 zoned Dustin Road business district for the purpose of operating a gasoline/service station on a parcel located at 2740 Navarre Avenue.
        A former eye surgical building behind Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital on the corner of Isaac Streets Drive and Navarre Avenue was at the location, James Gilmore, commissioner of building and zoning inspection, said at a recent Oregon Planning Commission meeting.
        The commission voted in favor of the request and forwarded it to city council for a final vote.
        The Special Use is needed because the C-4 Dustin Road Business District does not allow gas stations, said Gilmore.
        “Neighboring properties, which are C-2, allow filling stations with a conditional use,” said Gilmore. “Rather than changing the zoning and asking for a conditional use, we suggested we go with a Special Use that gives the ability of the planning commission to impose certain guidelines that they can’t do with regular zoning changes.”
        The project review committee had no objections to the Special Use Exemption.
        Oregon City Administrator Joel Mazur said that while the Project Review Committee had no objections to the proposed SUE, there were a few conditions it recommended if the request was approved by the planning commission and city council. Those conditions include some beautification work along Isaac Streets Drive, the addition of six electric vehicle charging stations as part of the development of the project, and some storm water drainage work to handle all the hardscape.
        “So, they are willing to add some bioswales along the Isaac Streets Drive side, some landscaping, and work with us on the signage so that it does not detract from the Town Center Project,” said Mazur.
        He received an email from Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital in support of the 24-hour operation. The workforce at the hospital would benefit because there are three shifts.
        “It is not just a gas station, it is a gas station/restaurant/convenience store with indoor and outdoor seating,” he said.
        Gilmore said it should be up to the Architectural Review Committee to make sure any conditions imposed by the planning commission are taken care of - whether it is mounding, walls, additional plantings, or all of them.
        “They will approve the building, the landscaping, and in this case, we would just make that part of the approval,” said Gilmore.
        The Architectural Review Committee consists of Public Service Director Paul Roman, Mazur, Councilman Steve Hornyak (chairman of the economic development committee), Architect Ronald Stroshine, and  Gilmore.
        Jerome Parker, an attorney whose client submitted the request for the SUE, noted the request is not for a zoning change, but for an SUE. “That means, if it is approved, we can only build what we say we are going to build,” he said. ”Everything we tell you now, on the record, we have to live with. So there’s total control from the city under the SUE we’re asking for. We will do anything to make this look attractive. When this is done, I firmly believe it’s going to be the best looking thing you have on Navarre Avenue in terms of landscaping and aesthetics,” he said.
        “Also, it is not just a gas station. It will have a mini-mart, fresh produce, a full kitchen where you can have a meal cooked for you, free Wi-Fi, and the sorts of amenities you would not think of in a gas station,” he said. It will include an 18-seat, sit down restaurant as well.
        Five million dollars is being invested in the project, he said. About 16 employees will be hired locally, he added. The building will consist of 6,700 square feet.
        Planning Commission member Greg Vriezelaar said he had some concerns about the project.
        “To be completely honest, I thought the location was bad,” he said. “Just with respect to the Town Center and knowing the efforts made by the city - the infrastructure is in place, the roads, and the costs that went into that. Oregon has been wanting something like that to be proud of for a long time. I don’t want to be the one that puts something out front that maybe doesn’t help that process. The Town Center is an important piece of our next generation in Oregon. The demographic is aging. We need something to attract the young people. The Town Center is the one thing we have built that can possibly do this. It is important that if a wall is put up, that it is consistent with the rest of the walls in the Town Center. The second you come in from Navarre it should feel like you are leaving the Navarre Avenue corridor and entering the Town Center. This property is the first leg to do that,” he said.
        Another concern he had was the possibility of future changes in ownership. “The line of work I’m in, I deal with gas stations a lot. It is very common for ownership changes. Potentially new owners that come down the road, will they share the same value system? That’s where I get nervous,” he said.
        Mark Solomon, who is involved in the project, said the development will be owned by Giant Eagle, a 92-year-old company that is privately owned in Pittsburgh. “They own and operate all the gas stations and do not franchise or sell individual properties to other operators,” he said.
        The planning commission voted 4-0 in favor of the SUE, with the following conditions: Wall buffering on Navarre Avenue and Isaac Streets Drive, appropriate mounding, landscaping and signage, approved by the Architectural Review Committee.
        “As one of the initiators of the Town Center, I do believe we can make this work and still be welcoming to our Town Center,” said Mayor Mike Seferian, who has a seat on the planning commission. “We’re pleased to see that someone has found a way to deal with that location so it doesn’t create an actual eyesore to our Town Center. Is that the best we can wish for? Maybe not. But it certainly is not the worse. A vacant building is a liability to us. I believe we can incorporate this into something that is welcoming and actually complements our Town Center.”


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