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Hillsdale Neighborhood Association opposes Chase building plan

Group faults Chase for failing to meet zoning requirements, tenets of Hillsdale Town Center Plan

HILLSDALE - The Hillsdale Neighborhood Association voted unanimously Sept. 7 to oppose JPMorgan Chase Bank's effort to gain city approval to build a smaller building with more parking than zoning allows.

The vote came after the bank refused to extend a deadline for community comment until mid-October so that the parties might meet to iron out their differences.

Bank officials also declined to meet with a neighborhood association representative to see whether an agreement on the size and nature of the proposed building could be reached.

The adjustment to current zoning, if approved by the city, would allow Chase to build a structure less than half the size required by zoning. The bank is entering into a multi-year leasing agreement on the abandoned gas station lot at 6361 S.W. Capitol Hwy. Wardin Investments, which owns large portions of the property in the Hillsdale Town Center, is the leaser.

HNA made the decision to proceed with its September monthly meeting, but it reached an agreement about the opposition at an August emergency session, at which members decided to try to negotiate with Chase first.

The neighborhood association submitted its formal letter of opposition to the city of Portland's Bureau of Development Services Sept. 14.

BDS planner Douglas Hardy, in consultation with other BDS planners, planned to rule on Chase's application 'on or around' Sept. 26.

The parties have 14 days to appeal the ruling. An appeal would go to an 'adjustment committee' comprising citizen volunteers, Hardy said.

Chase's application maintains that a branch on the site must be smaller than called for by zoning because the business requires 21 parking spaces. Without that number of spaces, the site is not viable for a bank branch, wrote Jennifer Cohee of Callison Architects in Seattle in the application for the zoning adjustment.

'Convenient parking for customers is critical to the function of the branch work,' she wrote.

Cohee wrote that, if the adjustment is not granted, zoning would require a building of more than 10,000 square feet.

'This is an extreme excess of the banking needs of the area and would not allow for client parking or site circulation,' she said.

The proposed branch would measure 4,120 square feet and would have nine employees working each shift, according to Cohee. Nine parking spaces would be reserved for employees, she wrote.

Some have noted that Hillsdale is served by seven bus lines.

Employees at other Hillsdale banks have been known to walk to work.

Earlier, Chase Vice President Greta Pass told a neighborhood meeting that the bank would employ five people.

BDS had received seven letters, all in opposition to the Chase request, as of Sept. 8, but Hardy wrote in an email that 'some of the comments, ... while raising valid concerns, are not pertinent to the approval criteria.'

He added that community planning references in the letters are only relevant if they refer to 'plans that have been adopted by the city council. Some of the plans referenced in the comments received, while containing issues that are valued by the community, cannot be considered in this review as the plans have not been adopted by council.'

At the neighborhood association meeting land use chair Duane Hunting outlined the neighborhood's position in a draft letter. The draft faults the Chase plans for not meeting the zoning requirements and for failing to be consistent with the city council-approved Hillsdale Town Center Plan and the visions of the Hillsdale Main Street Program, also approved by the city council.

Local planning efforts have all called for more pedestrian orientation and mixed-use buildings in the town center.

Several of the opposition letters mention the lack of need for another bank in Hillsdale.

This story originally appeared in the Hillsdale News, hillsdalenews.org.