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Proposed commercial development, with reported planned tenants of T.J. Maxx, Red Robin and Panera, appears headed for approval by city

by: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - The possible future home of the Arney Retail Center in Woodburn.The City Council approved, in principle, a new proposed commercial development just south of Woodburn Premium Outlets during a hearing last week.

Dubbed the Arney Retail Center, the three-building, 40,000-square-foot commercial project is being constructed, and will be owned and managed once complete, by the Portland-based Deacon Development Group.

Several representatives of Deacon appeared before the council June 9 to discuss the project.

“We’re very excited to be part of what is going on in the (Interstate 5) corridor and what the city is doing,” said Kendra Howell, development manager for Deacon.

Deacon Development, she explained, is a branch of the larger company, S.D. Deacon, the general contractor that built all four phases of the outlet mall’s construction and expansion.

“We’ve been around for a while, and we’re very excited to actually be a part of the community,” Howell said. “We’re a small developer. We do one or two projects a year, and we’d be very excited and happy to have this be one of our projects.”

The documents submitted to the city for approval did not name any of the potential tenants in the development. However, Pete Snook, principal and representative of Deacon, recently confirmed to the Woodburn Independent that the retail center will be anchored by a T.J. Maxx department store, and will also feature a Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Panera Bread.

For construction to proceed would require a zone change. Though the property is currently zoned commercial general (which is compatible with the retail development), it also includes a conditional zoning restriction that limits its usage to an auto dealership. The conditional zoning dates back to its original development as a car lot by former owner Warde Hershberger in 1998, according to information from the city.

“This would, essentially, remove the auto distinction and just make it a straight CG zone,” Don Dolenc, Woodburn associate planner, explained.

In addition to approving its design plans and requesting the removal of the conditional zoning restriction, Deacon has also asked the city for the division of one of the parcels in question and the relocation of an existing property line.

The Woodburn Planning Commission conducted its own hearing on the matter May 22 and unanimously recommended approval.

Though the matter will have to come back before the board for a final vote in the form of an official resolution, Mayor Kathy Figley and several councilors expressed excitement about the project and unanimously approved it in principle.

“This is a great project, and it just goes to show you what can happen with the interchange, after all these years and all the battles we’ve gone through,” Council President Pete McCallum said. “I think this will be a great addition.”

“I like the plan. I think the buildings look good. My wife’s really excited,” Councilor Frank Lonergan joked.

Councilor Jim Cox said he was in favor of removing the auto dealership restriction.

“I don’t like conditional zoning anyhow,” he said. “I think it encourages spot zoning, and I’m glad to get rid of it.”

No one spoke against the project at the hearing, though a letter from a nearby property owner was submitted in opposition and read into the record by Figley. Olivier and Susan Logeias, of the Milwaukie-based LLC Logeias Woodburn — which owns the building at 111 N. Arney Road that houses Starbucks and Sora Sushi — said they fear the new retail development would negatively affect their business.

“We consider that there is an overabundance of restaurants and retail in this area, and adding more of them will be very damaging for the existing ones,” they wrote. “We really think the restriction limiting this property to an auto dealership makes a lot of sense and has been imposed for very good reasons.”

In response, Howell said the complaints were more based on economic issues rather than planning criteria, and reiterated her belief that varying and independent retail properties can work together in synergy.

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