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Developer returns with new apartment proposal

TIDINGS PHOTO: LESLIE PUGMIRE  - The proposed development's southeast corner is at Tannler  Drive and Blankenship Road.

Residents packed the Community Room at the West Linn police station Aug. 26 and Sept. 2 for Planning Commission hearings on the latest development proposal from ConAm Properties, LLC.

The first hearing Aug. 26 may have felt like déja vu. It was just about eight months ago that the City Council denied ConAm’s proposed zoning change to allow for “medium-high density, single and multiple family residential” construction at an 11-acre property on the corner of Blankenship Road and Tannler Drive.

But now, ConAm has returned with a new proposal. Rather than requesting a zone change to allow for exclusively residential development, ConAm has instead revised its application to a mixed-use development featuring 180 apartment units and seven commercial spaces.

The location has frontage on Blankenship Drive and is currently zoned Office-Business Center, which restricts development to businesses such as childcare facilities, hotel, fitness, professional and medical offices. It allows — as long as an unspecified amount of commercial development is included — multi-family housing.

According to John Boyd, city planning manager, the zoning code for Office-Business Center does not contain specific ratios between commercial and multi-family housing.

City staff recommended approval of the project in advance of the Planning Commission hearings, with several conditions of approval to account for traffic, architectural and parking concerns.

As ConAm representatives detailed at the Aug. 26 Planning Commission meeting, the development would include 61 one-bedroom units, 97 two-bedroom units and 22 three-bedroom units. Each of the seven buildings on the property would include one first floor commercial unit, not to exceed 300 square feet.

Five of the seven buildings would be four stories tall, while the remaining two are planned for three stories.

“We believe there’s a high demand for high-quality housing and commercial development in this location,” ConAm Development Manager Rob Morgan said. “There’s been little multi-family and commercial development that’s occurred recently, and we believe this product would be very successful in part because of that.”

Morgan also noted that West Linn’s general quality of life would be attractive for future tenants, and that the topography of the site would also be beneficial in providing “nice views” for residents or commercial tenants.

Attorney Michael Robinson, who represents ConAm, spoke after Morgan and argued that the application met all code requirements.

“We are respectful of what folks have told us,” Robinson said. “I wish we could agree, but the applicant is entitled to make an application under the existing zone, and in this case I think this is allowed. I don’t think there’s any question, and that’s why staff recommended approval. A lot of the issues have been raised, and most are not relevant to the approval criteria.”

Of the 22 people who testified Aug. 26, just two spoke in favor of the project. The public hearing was continued Sept. 2 to allow more testimony. Seven neighborhood associations have adopted resolutions opposing the project.

“This is zoned ‘Office-Business Center,’ and only 2,100 feet of space in the development is commercial,” said Ed Schwarz, speaking on behalf of the Savanna Oaks Neighborhood Association.

Using a slideshow, Schwarz also expressed concerns about traffic in the area — specifically the proposed elimination of southbound left turns off Tannler Drive onto Blankenship Road and the addition of a second left turn lane at the intersection of 10th Street and Salamo Road.

“They’re not remediating traffic,” Schwarz said. “They’re putting on some Band-Aids to force the right turn at the bottom of Tannler.”

Robinson said the proposal was supported by two different traffic engineers hired by ConAm and the City. According to the proposal, left turns off Tannler would be re-routed through Greene Street, Bland Circle and Remington Drive.

Another resident, Paul Blankenmeister, said the proposal appeared to be an attempt to circumvent the denial of the original proposal back in January.

“This team took a run at this before in terms of a residential proposal, and they got a big ‘No,’” Blankenmeister said. “This proposal is an end-run around the ‘no’ they just received in January for a zoning change.”

Resident MaryAnn Mattecheck said that the 300-square-foot units were too small to house commercial development.

“That’s 12 feet larger than half of my two-car garage,” she said. “If that’s commercial, I don’t know what it is. You should have at least two of those buildings as commercial before building the other five as apartments.”

Speaking in favor of the development, resident Jeff Parker called it a “great project.”

“The applicant meets the Comprehensive Plan and development standards,” he said. “It stimulates other businesses, including my business. Please approve this great project.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Sept. 9 — after The Tidings went to press — the Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny the application.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..