Oregon council OKs SUE for GetGo service station

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday narrowly approved a Special Use Exception (SUE) for a proposed gas/service plaza at 2740 Navarre Ave.
        Council voted 4-3 following a lengthy discussion on the matter.
        Council President Tim Zale, and council members Kathleen Pollauf, Marvin Dabish, and Terry Reeves voted in favor. Councilmen Steve Hornyak, Dennis Walendzak, and Paul Drake III voted against it.
        The Oregon Planning Commission voted 4-0 on March 21 to recommend the proposed SUE be approved.
        “This is not only a service station, but a grocery store and restaurant,” said Building and Zoning Commissioner James Gilmore. “It will also have charging stations for electric vehicles.”
        GetGo, a convenience store chain owned and operated by Giant Eagle, will build at the site, a $7 million investment. An empty commercial building is currently at the location, which is at the corner of Navarre Avenue and Isaac Streets Drive.
        There were people who questioned whether the location was appropriate for a service plaza that sold gas, said Mayor Mike Seferian, who has a seat on the planning commission.
        “They thought it was a more likely spot for a restaurant, or some retail business. They had heard that Giant Eagle had outbid Chick-fil-A for that spot. That was simply not the case. Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane, Panera Bread, and several other retailers discarded that location as an option for their business. There was no interest by anyone else,” said Seferian.
        “We tried to lead people to that location, to no avail,” he added. “When Giant Eagle suggested GetGo, that’s all we had. Nobody else thought they could successfully put a business in this location. So we were faced with either having a GetGo service plaza, or an empty building. So we came to the rationale to approve that site for GetGo.”
        Jerry Parker, the applicant for the SUE, who is also an attorney who represents the interests of GetGo, said his client had agreed to extensive landscaping, bioswales, increased landscaping on the Isaac Streets Drive side, construction of a decorative wall, and increased setbacks on the side, front and rear of the property.
        “I’m the one who suggested the decorative wall to provide extra screening and visual enhancement,” said Parker. “This building, from an aesthetic standpoint, will be consistent with the newer buildings on Navarre with construction, landscaping and materials.”
        Mercy Health-St. Charles Hospital, said Parker, supports the project.
        “The hospital is 100 percent behind it. The cafeteria hours at the hospital do not run 24-7 for anyone who visits there. The GetGo will have an 18-seat restaurant on a 24-7 basis. Doctors, employees of the hospital and hospital visitors will be able to go to the plaza in their own backyard,” said Parker. “It will be a very nice facility and a complement to this whole area.”
        Fairmount Properties, the developer of the Town Center project, is also behind it, said Parker.
        “We talked to their representatives, and they indicated they would like to see this happen. The cost of the GetGo project is estimated to be $7 million. It’s a heck of an investment in the City of Oregon. And it kick starts development across the street. So they are very much in favor of this happening at that location.”
        Local businessman P.J. Kapfhammer also supported the project.
        “In a perfect world, does anyone want another gas station compared to an Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A or anything else? Probably not. But you have a giant corporation that is well respected in its field that wants to put $7 million in your community,” he said.
Highly viable
        Kapfhammer said GetGo would be the second gas station open at 11 p.m. on Navarre Avenue.
        “When you look down Navarre Avenue at 11 p.m., with as many gas stations we have, how many are open? We have one that is open. And that’s it. This isn’t anything I would pick that I would want there. But I think it fits there. It’s highly viable. In the big picture, everyone is excited about the Town Center, and everyone is waiting for that. If this springloads the Town Center, then this is a very good thing.”
        Cindy McDonald, of Dustin Road, was opposed to the project.
        “The gas station is a terrible idea. How many gas stations does this city need, especially within a mile and a half or two of each other? The city is looking at building a beautiful Town Center. I’m certain that council is anxious to show some progress. But this is not the answer. Why would we want a gas station, after the hospital, to be the first business seen when nearing our Town Center, especially coming from the west down Navarre? I know there’s talk of putting up a decorative brick wall and planting trees. However, you can put lipstick on a pig and it’s still a pig. This is still a gas station,” said McDonald.
        She also questioned how many people would want to go to a gas station for food.
        “Why would this even be promoted, especially once the Town Center is built with all the new restaurants that are supposed to be there? Please do the people of Oregon a great service and do not approve this. Once it’s there, should it not work out, it would be very difficult to put something else in its place. There’s a lot of work at considerable expense that would have to be done to replace a gas station with something different. The first option is not always the best option. Sometimes patience needs to be practiced. I think this is one of those instances where patience may lead to a better option and opportunity,” said McDonald.
        “I have been contacted by more people in our community about this particular property and this proposed SUE than everything we’ve considered in the last seven years I’ve been here. Not one person from our community who reached out to me told me how much they supported this,” said Hornyak, who voted against the SUE.
        “This is exceptionally challenging to me, as I am to my core a free enterprise person,” he continued. “If a business says it wants to stick a shovel in the ground and invest in my community, I’m hard pressed not to do it. But I took an oath seven years ago that I would represent the people of Oregon. And every voice that has talked to me from Oregon has said they are not in favor of this.”
        City Administrator Joel Mazur said after the meeting that the project will go before the Architectural Design Review Committee to ensure that conditions placed on the project by the planning commission, such as the decorative wall/buffering on Navarre Avenue and Isaac Streets Drive, appropriate mounding, landscaping and signage, are followed through.


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