The West Linn Planning Commission, in response to requests from the Willamette and Tanner Basin Neighborhood Associations, voted last week to continue a public hearing on the proposed Tannler West project to Thursday, Dec. 21.

The project, a 289,000-square-foot development that includes three Class A buildings and a parking garage nestled on the lower side of the hill between Tannler Drive and Blankenship Road, is the largest commercial development ever proposed within city limits. About half a dozen people testified at the hearing before the commission Dec. 7; about half were in favor of the project, although several of those opposed represented nearby neighborhood associations.

'I think it'll be an excellent asset,' said Gordon Root, a resident of West Linn who said he lived on Remington Drive, just above the property where the project is proposed to be built. 'I'm in total favor of it. Nothing this ambitious has ever been planned for the city.'

Alice Johansson, co-chair of the Willamette Neighborhood Association, said her group had not had enough time to examine the project.

Ed Schwarz and Roberta Schwarz, co-chairs of the Tanner Basin Neighborhood Association, said their group voted 11-0 to oppose the project, and they requested that the city's planning commission deny the application.

During his testimony, Ed Swarz said that the residents in Tanner Basin were mostly concerned with the preservation of trees, the aesthetics of the building and traffic - especially because Tannler West will be located at the north end of the 10th Street Corridor.

The corridor has been a significant traffic problem for the city of West Linn. Congestion in the corridor resulted in the denial last summer of a similarly (although much smaller) proposed development, Tannler East. And the corridor is at the heart of debate now occurring before the city council on whether the Willamette Marketplace should be allowed to rebuild - and install a traffic signal - before a 10th Street Corridor Task Force has completed its work on recommending long-term solutions to the traffic problems.

Ed Swarz expressed the same concern regarding the Tannler West project.

'We have a task force. I'd like to see that task force do its work and come back with recommendations (first),' he said.

In their presentation to the planning commission, representatives for Parker and Wilt said they planned to do traffic improvements that would mitigate for the increased traffic they might cause. They plan to widen Blankenship eastbound, on the approach to 10th Street; install a traffic light at the intersection of Blankenship and the western Albertson's driveway; and, among others, they plan to provide two lanes southbound on 10th Street, ending in a left-turn trap lane at the Interstate 205 northbound ramps.

'It really needs to be emphasized that this mitigation will improve the traffic,' Wilt told the commissioners. 'That's pretty significant for this community.'

His representatives also noted that the footprint of the buildings and parking garage will take up only 28 percent of the total 11.3 acres - that will leave the remainder of the site for tree preservation and green space.

'We're trying really hard not to overbuild on this site,' said Dick Spies, the principal architect for Group MacKenzie, a Portland firm. 'Our goal is to make a project that will truly benefit the neighborhood.'

Spies said the design of the office buildings was modified based on concerns heard at neighborhood meetings. The façade of the buildings will have traditional elements, he said, and will be varied in height to make the scale of the buildings seem less daunting. He also added that all the windows will be green-colored and the brick of the buildings will be a soft wheat color so that the buildings blend into the natural areas around the site.

Wilt, in his testimony to the commissioners, said Tannler West is not likely to be built out for at least six years. He said no tenants were confirmed yet, but that he hoped to attract one major company to fill the offices.

Commissioners Michael Bonoff, Michael Babbitt, Gary Stark and Michael Jones were present at the meeting. Chairman John Kovash and Commissioners Gary Hitesman and Paul Fisher were absent.

After the hearing concluded, Tannler Basin resident Nagua Riad - who did not testify - said she was frustrated.

'West Linn was originally quiet and now it is turning into a very crowded place that doesn't make sense,' she said. 'The whole city is not built to absorb all this traffic.'

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