Anticipated parking and traffic problems lead planning commissioners to reject the Tannler East commercial complex proposal

Commercial development of the 18 acres overlooking Salamo and Blankenship roads and the 10th Street/I-205 intersection might not occur anytime soon.

The planning commission voted unanimously last week to deny the latest Tannler East proposal from RKM Development of Portland.

City planners have continued to recommend denial of the application to build five commercial buildings, including space for offices, day-care and fitness centers and a church.

More than 10 acres was offered as open space to protect Oregon White Oak and wildlife in the indigenous oak savannah habitat. That upland area would remain under the city's control, said Roy Kim, representing RKM Development.

But commissioners were unmoved.

The commission heard three grounds for denial of the application, as presented by Associate Planner Peter Spir.

One related to the developer planning fewer parking spaces than the city code requires for joint-use.

'Staff is not satisfied that both the church and the fitness center parking needs can be satisfied with the parking available,' said Spir.

'When we get into joint-use arrangements, we recognize that there is a shortfall in parking, but because of the fact that certain uses do not overlap, accommodations can be made.'

But in this case, Spir said there were only 11 extra parking spaces. That, in his view, would not make up for any discrepancies that might occur between estimates and actual usage.

The architect told the commission he could provide a dozen more spaces along a 10-percent slope serpentine driveway between parking levels.

Spir expressed disapproval of that idea, and said overall the project is 236 spaces under code, and planners are not comfortable making this exception.

Kim said he has had success in other developments by combining businesses that have peak periods of use at different times of the day.

In this development, he said, the fitness center would have its main weekday use before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m., whereas the office buildings would mainly be used during the 8-5 weekday time period, and the church would mainly be at night or on Sunday.

Matt Sprague, of SFA Design Group of Tigard, said he had the ability to reduce the seating capacity of the church from 900 to 780 - which would reduce the number of spaces needed by 50.

That idea seemed to satisfy Spir, who was simply seeking more open parking spaces to allow for any errors in prior estimates.

Another part of the parking problem, Spir says, is that some of the parking had been designed on a level inaccessible from the other parking areas.

Planners are not happy with the architect's answer to that concern, with access roads they say that are too close to Tannler Drive and likely would create a challenge for drivers entering and leaving.

But Sprague says the distance in the proposal is typical of many.

The submitted design also requires churchgoers to park their vehicles and walk more than 300 feet (length of football field) to the building's entrance.

But Sprague said he interpreted the code to provide an exception in this case. However, he said, if the city does not agree with his interpretation of the code, he could reduce the capacity of the church in order to meet the 300-feet standard.

Left-turn problems

A spokesperson for Albertson's objected to the proposed closure of a left-turn from Blankenship Road into the parking lot Albertson's shares with several other commercial businesses. He suggested a conference to reach a compromise that would not impact either party very much.

The proposal reduces the parking lot's left-turn ingress to one driveway that positions traffic about 15 feet from Albertson's front door.

But Traffic Engineer Mike Art says that was not part of his initial design. He had proposed a signal at that location, but the Oregon Department of Transportation changed that part of the proposal. Art said the developer is neutral, and is open to either solution.

Commissioner Michael Babbitt said that left turn was one of his main concerns.

'… the left turn and the queuing up and the backing up onto 10th Street really concerns me,' he said. 'The traffic analysis and study didn't seem to provide solutions or answers to that problem.'

Art says the overburdened intersection at Tannler and Blankenship would gain a traffic signal and a second left turn lane would be added to Salamo at 10th Street.

Speaking to objections to proposed left turns from Salamo into the property, Art said the developer would be willing to restrict that entrance to right turns only from vehicles coming down the hill toward 10th Street.

Art estimated the traffic impact fees to be paid by the developer would go 'well into seven figures,' with the fees for the fitness center alone at about $1 million.

Local resident Ken Pryor suggested there would be traffic issues after proposed development on the south side of I-205 is complete, including perhaps five traffic lights within a quarter-mile distance. He called it a 'recipe for disaster,' and asked the commission to consider the 10th Street corridor as a whole, 'rather than piecemeal.'

Commissioner Michael Bonoff agreed with Pryor, recalling that earlier the commission had discussed the idea with the council.

'This is a nightmare,' Pryor said, 'and (the applicant's) solution to traffic mitigation is queuing (onto I-205). That's a non-starter. At some point in time, something has to be done and you have to look at the resources of the land and what it will support. And if you have to go ahead and tax people to put in something decent, you should do that rather than penalize the community in the interim trying to make-do with stop-gap measures.'

But Art says his firm has taken a holistic approach to traffic surveys, responding to requests to do so from ODOT and the city of West Linn.

'We ended up providing an analysis not only of the conditions on build-out of this site,' he said, 'but also we went far beyond that. We looked at the build-out conditions of the developable land that's within the influence area of this site.'

Commissioner Gary Hitesman said he did not believe some of the testimony that suggested the intersections would function well with the proposed modifications.

Commissioner Paul Fischer also disagreed with some testimony.

'The negative and adverse impacts of the proposal, it seems to me, outweigh the benefits, substantially,' he said.

Bonoff also was not in favor of the proposal, noting problems with parking, congestion and safety.

Commission Vice-Chair Michael Jones said he also would vote against the proposal, partially because he doesn't think local residents are satisfied with recent modifications of the proposal.

'Quite simply,' he said, 'I do not think the difference between the 638 required parking spaces and the 450 spaces that are provided is adequate.'

The commissioners' decision could be appealed to the city council, or the developer could redesign the project and re-apply to the city.

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