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Hearings officer rejects arguments by neighbors that three-story building is incompatible with area and would worsen traffic problems at Y-shaped intersection.

A Clackamas County hearings officer has given the go-ahead for a three-story, self-storage building that had been challenged by neighbors in Oak Grove.

The decision by Fred Wilson, a Salem lawyer acting for the county, clears the way for a 121,000-square-foot building that will contain 900 self-storage units at 3260 SE Oak Grove Blvd.

The county planning staff recommended and the design review committee gave conditional approval, but the Oak Grove Community Council appealed it.

If there is a further appeal, it would go to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, not the county.

Neighbors — including Paul Savas, who said he did not speak as a county commissioner — argued on Aug. 10 that the building was incompatible with the neighborhood.

They also said the two 28-foot-wide access points to the building on SE Kellogg Avenue would worsen traffic congestion at the Y-shaped intersection there.

The 1.76-acre site was once occupied by Parr Lumber and now by Indoor Garden Depot. It is across the street from Fred Meyer, which also generates traffic from McLoughlin Boulevard to the west.

But in his Sept. 25 written decision, Wilson said the applicant — Pacific Northwest Storage — is not required to resolve the existing problems.

"The intersection at Oak Grove and Kellogg is a bad intersection," he wrote.

"The applicant, however, is not responsible for it being a bad intersection. The applicant is also not responsible for fixing the problem of an existing bad intersection…

"The applicant does not need to demonstrate that the intersection can accommodate the traffic that would be generated by the proposed use."

No traffic impact analysis by the applicant was required because the storage building was estimated to generate just under the trigger of 20 trips in a peak morning or evening hour — less than Parr Lumber or the garden center.

An initial site plan for the storage building proposed access from SE Oak Grove Boulevard, but county policy is to put access points on lower-volume streets such as SE Kellogg Avenue.

As for the compatibility of the storage building with the largely residential neighborhood, Wilson said there is no such requirement in the county zoning and development ordinance for it.

However, Wilson did include as a condition of approval that a mural be installed on the south side of the three-story building — a condition that the applicant agreed to at the Aug. 10 hearing.

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