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City OKs huge office building project

"This project is about to set a new standard. It will truly be a bench-mark that West Linn can be proud of." - Bob Thompson, of Group Mackenzie

The largest building project in West Linn history was given the go-ahead by the city council at a public hearing Feb. 15.

City councilors gave their okay to a decision by the West Linn Planning Commission to allow the building of Tannler West, a three-building office complex with 289,000 square feet of office space.

The buildings would be situated on 11 acres of land near Blankenship Road and Tannler Drive. The project will include 750 parking spaces.

'This is the largest commercial development ever in West Linn,' said Gordon Howard, senior planner for the city of West Linn.

After filing an appeal of the project, members of the Tanner Basin Neighborhood Association were on hand to protest that project owner Blackhawk, LLC had not addressed what they called 'critical problems.' They asked the council to not allow the project to proceed until the problems had been remedied.

'We urge the city council to deny this application,' said Ed Schwarz, who presented the case for the neighborhood group. 'This plan was made before the application was submitted. I wish they could have worked with us.'

Schwarz cited such concerns as noise bouncing off the walls of the huge buildings, possible drainage problems, improper lot line adjustments and delayed compliance with the conditions of approval, since the project is being done in three stages.

However, traffic is the overriding concern, Schwarz told the councilors

'Unfortunately, this comes at a time when we are dealing with many traffic issues in West Linn,' Schwarz said. 'Nothing has been done to mitigate the traffic problems this project will create. To me that makes it a non-starter for this application. We have concerns about huge queues forming at the bottom of Tannler.

'We don't want them to make it worse than it is, which is what they're doing.'

In his presentation, Schwarz repeatedly used the phrases ' … the burden falls on them to show it,' and ' … did not meet the code.'

However, West Linn Mayor Norm King said he believed the project had met city codes, and that was verified by the planning commission and city staff.

'What we've seen,' said Councilor Michele Eberle, 'is that they've met these concerns to the greatest degree possible.'

Councilor Scott Burgess noted the steepness of the slope and difficulty with access, suggesting that the developer had submitted a good plan.

'West Linn is geographically challenged, to say the least, especially this location,' said Burgess. 'It seems they've spread things out to reduce this problem.'

Council President Mike Gates challenged the neighborhood asociation to suggest alternatives to the plan that the planning commission approved.

'It's up to the appellant,' Gates said, 'to specifically say what the improvement ought to be.'

While questioning the concerns stated by the neighborhood association, the city councilors had questions of their own for Group Mackenzie, architects for the project. Especially, they insisted that Group Mackenzie do everything it could to solve traffic concerns.

The architects pledged to do this as much as possible.

'This project is about to set a new standard,' said Bob Thompson of Group Mackenzie. 'It will truly be a benchmark that West Linn can be proud of.'

Bill Wilt of West Linn, co-owner of Blackhawk, Inc., claimed, 'This will be nicer than any building on Kruse Way (in Lake Oswego). It will be a terrific asset.'

The four-hour meeting continued with six persons giving testimony pro and con against Tannler West, and it concluded with the city councilors giving their unanimous approval to the project.

While denying the appeal, the council added some conditions, such as the location of sidewalks.

Howard said that work on the project is expected to begin this summer.

Tannler West will not be a 'green building' project, although this was urged by Eberle.

Representatives for Group Mackenzie said the project would include many green building features, such as light shelves, shading devices, sophisticated electronic controls, energy efficient roof and treatment of water runoff.