Oregon council recently approved by a vote of 5-2 a permit for the outside storage of car dealership vehicles at 2260 Woodville Road.
Council President Tom Susor and Councilman Terry Reeves voted against the permit.
Mohamad Tawil, agent for Interface Active Properties, Inc., had requested a Special Use Exception in a C-2 General Commercial District to store vehicles on the property.
The Oregon Planning Commission had recommended at an Oct. 15 meeting that the application be approved with the following conditions: No storage in the front yard setback; and the front yard buffer requirements should apply to the storage lot, according to Jim Gilmore, commissioner of building and zoning.
“The applicant is asking to store cars at this location. He’s not asking for outdoor sales of autos,” said Gilmore. “In a C-2 zone, storage is allowed as an accessory use and is limited to 10 percent of the area. A Special Use permit is required because storage will be a primary use, and it also exceeds 10 percent of the area allowed.”
Tawil owns Woodville Auto in Northwood and is requesting the Special Use permit for the purpose of storing car dealership vehicles on the property.
The cars on the lot will come from auction, as well as overflow from the Woodville auto lot.
The Planning Commission recommended that there would be no parking of vehicles in the front yard, said Gilmore. “They didn’t have a problem with it being parked around the perimeter of the building up to the property line.”
Councilman Dennis Walendzak asked Gilmore how the city can be sure there will be no sales of vehicles at the lot.
“We would act on a complaint, of course, if that were happening,” said Gilmore. “We would have to make a determination when we visit the property if sales are going on. Sales can be allowed with a Conditional Use with approval from the Planning Commission. My understanding is Mr. Tawil was not interested in car sales. I gave him that option. This is almost an interim use of the property. Hopefully, down the way, when the economy picks up, they will be able to lease this to an individual.”
Administrator Mike Beazley said an unusual provision of the city’s code allows Tawil to sell vehicles on the property without getting approval from council.
“He could have just had permission to do sales there without even coming to this body and doing it through the Planning Commission. But he specifically just wants it for storage,” said Beazley.
Council President Tom Susor, though, said he was opposed to any more used auto lots in the area.
“I have the utmost respect for the Tawil family. But I’m not interested in one more used car lot in the community. We shouldn’t take a piece of C-2 property on a major thoroughfare and store cars there. We need to store cars elsewhere. We have lots of land in Oregon. But we need to try and market C-2 property to do C-2 activity in,” said Susor.
Mayor Mike Seferian said there is nothing in the zoning code that prohibits Special Use Permits.
In fact, council in 2011 approved a Special Use Permit in a C-2 General Commercial zoned property for outside storage of car dealership vehicles at 2200 Woodville Road. The applicant/owner of the property, James Duran, also owns City Wide Auto Credit in Oregon and DC Motors in Northwood.
“Just a short time ago, about 400 feet west of this property, we did permit the same operation to take place on commercial property,” said Seferian. The land had been let go, and was left a mess for many years. An applicant came requesting a permit to store cars there, too, and cleaned up the property. He actually improved the property quite a bit. We can’t discriminate between people,” said Seferian.
“It was an obscure, irregular lot, mayor,” said Susor. “It wasn’t a prime piece of C-2 property with a building on it. There’s a bit of a difference.”
Seferian said the city can’t deny the permit if the applicant meets the requirements of the zoning code.
“We would not be respecting our own code,” said Seferian. “So we either have to change the code or approve this use.”
“You’re implying we don’t have control over our own zoning and destiny,” said Susor. “I’m prepared to leave it a C-2 lot and try to market it as a viable business instead.”
“We have to honor our own code,” said Seferian. “You’re saying we should not honor our code. Our rules and regulations are our code and we’re abiding by them. We have many other times. And we would want to continue to do what we have done for others. Or we could do, as you say, discriminate against one individual, let others go, and just choose to enforce our code when you choose to. I don’t choose to do that.”
Councilman Jerry Peach said he agreed that storing vehicles on the lot was an appropriate use.
“This rewards people who have invested on Woodville Road, are taking a risk, making improvements on Woodville Road, whereas before there were derelict buildings,” said Peach. “I think it would be the wrong decision on our part to stand in the way of business people who are willing to invest, and who have indicated this is an interim use, not a long-term plan.”