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New Chase Bank on hold

Traffic flow, design concern planning commission
by: Vern Uyetake, Chase Bank wants to tear down the old Kasch's Garden Center to build a new branch in the Robinwood neighborhood.

Although the West Linn Planning Commission and Robinwood neighbors want to see the neighborhood revitalized and new businesses brought in, they weren't thrilled with Chase Bank's plans to raze the old Kasch's building and construct a new bank.

The planning commission held a public hearing June 6 to hear Chase Bank's plans.

The proposal calls for construction of a new one-story, 4,120-square-foot building with a covered two-lane drive-thru at 19080 Willamette Drive, kitty-corner from the new Walmart.

The property is currently zoned general commercial and comprises two tax lots totaling 38,294 square feet. The proposed design of the building is stone, and its rooflines mirror those of the nearby businesses, such as Starbucks.

The hearing consisted of a design review and an application for a variance to adjust window locations and side elevations.

'We tried to tailor our plan as close as communicated by the city as we could,' architect Hans Christiansen with Callison said. He pointed out the bank would have 25 percent landscaping, including a broad plaza in the front with planters and a meandering pathway.

Planning commissioners expressed concern over the safety of customers at night with the ATMs and drive-thrus located at the back of the building as well as over traffic volume and flow.

Commissioners inquired about reversing the traffic design to improve the flow of traffic and the Oregon Department of Transportation's recommendation of restriping the section of Highway 43 to include a left-turn lane into the bank.

'It occurs to me we are creating a major problem on a major, major street. This is really serious,' Planning Commissioner Robert Martin said.

Thomas Boes, the chairman of the Robinwood Business Association and a board member of the West Linn Chamber of Commerce, testified that the bank's design does not fit in with the future vision of the neighborhood.

'We have higher expectations than … what is being shown here,' he told commissioners, adding that the current neighborhood has a 'Frankenstein aesthetic.'

'We can do better than this. I hate to see a site like Kasch's abandoned for so long … but we need to look for a more cohesive solution.'

Boes stressed the need for a master plan for the neighborhood before more new businesses move in.

The planning commission voted to continue its hearing until June 27 so Chase can address some of the commission's concerns as well as ODOT's recommendations.