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Property-owner rules out gas station amid annexation controversy

Bob Stein assuages Tualatin residents' concerns at packed public hearing.


This story has been updated from its original version.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Kathie Cole, center, shakes hands with land owner Bob Stein after he told the Tualatin City Council that he will not seek to build a gas station on his property after all, due to neighbors' concerns.

The owner of a land parcel on Highway 99W responded to controversy over its proposed annexation into the city of Tualatin Monday by pledging not to build a gas station there.

Bob Stein, who owns Oregon City-based Stein Oil Co., said at a public hearing that he wants to be “a good neighbor.” Residents who live nearby have expressed strong opposition to a gas station, which Stein indicated last year that he planned to build on the 2.05-acre parcel if its annexation were approved.

“We decided that if people were upset that we're going to try to build a facility that they didn't want in the area, we wouldn't do it,” Stein said, concluding, “We'll develop the property, but it won't be for a gas station or a card lock.”

Neighbors were told at a meeting last September that Stein planned to develop the site — technically owned by Stein Woodburn LLC, which is affiliated with his primary business, Stein Oil — with a Chevron gas station, a convenience store, a coffee drive-through and a card lock commercial vehicle storage facility. In response, they submitted a petition with some 300 names on it asking the City Council to hold off on the annexation until the property was rezoned to disallow a gas station. Many also submitted comments to the city urging it not to allow the gas station.

“We do want to make it clear as a neighborhood and a community that we were never opposed to Mr. Stein's annexation, but because inextricably the usage was so tied to the gas station, that's why our committee became 'No Gas Station,'” said Dan Hardy, who lives in the Pony Ridge neighborhood, which is across Southwest Pacific Drive from the parcel at the intersection of Highway 99W and Southwest Cipole Road, on Monday.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden commended property-owner Bob Stein for listening to the concerns of the neighborhood and deciding to not build a gas station in west Tualatin.Hardy was one of dozens of residents who came out to Monday's public hearing wearing “No Gas Station” stickers, filling the Juanita Pohl Center to the point where the meeting spilled out into overflow seating.

But what was set to become a lengthy and possibly contentious public hearing was headed off by Stein and his attorney Mike Connors' announcement that the property-owner will back off the idea of a gas station, which was met with applause from the audience. Connors said Stein and his family felt the proposal had become a “distraction” from the goal of getting the land annexed into Tualatin.

“It became apparent that whether we agreed or not, the concerns of the neighbors were genuine. That's how they felt,” said Connors.

Of the Steins' pledge not to proceed with a gas station on the parcel, Connors noted, “From my perspective — I've been doing this for 20 years — this is highly unusual. Legally, I can tell everybody here, they're not required to do that. That's what I told them, that they're not required to do that. But they realized that we've got a neighboring community that's very concerned about this. They want to be good neighbors. They realize the pressure it's put on the city. They want to try to be collaborative partners with the city. And it wasn't an easy decision, but it's a decision they decided to make to try to take that focal point away and really be able to move forward with a new concept that is … not going to attract this kind of controversy.”

The parcel is completely surrounded by Tualatin, making it an “island” of unincorporated land.

Mayor Lou Ogden suggested after Stein spoke that the public hearing should be held over to a future date to allow the applicant time to work with city staff on drafting an “annexation agreement” that would formalize Stein's statement that the land will not be used for a gas station. Stein and Connors agreed, and after a 15-minute recess, the council voted to resume the hearing on May 23.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - It was a full house at the Tualatin City Council meeting on Monday due to widespread opposition to a proposed new gas station.During the recess, a number of residents who came to Monday's public hearing to oppose the annexation proposal came up to Stein to thank him, shake his hand and even embrace him.

“Oh, we're totally thrilled, because this went way beyond our expectation,” said Barbara Ouellette, a No Gas Station committee member who lives in the nearby Angel Haven senior living community. “We had no idea that anything like this would happen, because we came prepared to address the council with our issues.”

Residents had concerns about traffic, pollution, crime and other issues associated with the development. Hardy and others said they believed a gas station would reduce property values and make it harder for prospective homebuyers to receive financing.

Ouellette praised Stein for what she called an “old-fashioned way of doing business.”

“That was a gentleman, to do a thing like that,” she said, adding, “He did an incredibly generous thing.”

Hardy and fellow Pony Ridge resident Brian Craker also thanked Stein after proceedings resumed.

“We want to see this developed, because when we have a good development there, it's not only going to be beneficial for that commercial business, it's going to be beneficial for our community,” Craker said of the Stein parcel.

If the land is annexed by the city, it will be zoned for general commercial use. Gas stations are an allowed use in such zones, but the city and applicant can agree at the time of annexation that the land will not be used that way.

Dave Kimmel, a consultant for Stein, said no discussions have been had on what else could be done with the property since Stein and his daughters decided not to pursue a gas station last Thursday.

"We haven't looked at anything," he said Tuesday. "We haven't talked about any of it at all."

Kimmel said another neighborhood meeting will be held if the property is annexed and the owner wants to put forward a new development proposal.

Tualatin has separate processes for annexation and land use, although many land use decisions in the city are handled administratively rather than by a Planning Commission or City Council vote.

MAP COURTESY OF THE CITY OF TUALATIN - Property owned by Stein Woodburn LLC at the junction of Southwest Pacific Drive, Southwest Cipole Road and Highway 99W is proposed for annexation into the city of Tualatin.

Editor's note: This story has been updated Tuesday with additional photos, comments from a consultant for the property-owner and additional information on land use rules in Tualatin.


By Mark Miller
Reporter
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