City council considers fate of bottle redemption center
Beaverton city councilors will weigh whether a redemption center for bottles and cans is "substantially similar" to other commercial uses permitted on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
Separate appeals challenge an April 30 interpretation of the development code by the city staff in favor of the center. One appeal is from the owner of the building directly west of the center at 9307 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway — the center housed the former Pier 1 Imports store — and the other appeal is from neighbors to the north and Jesuit High School across the highway to the south.
Councilors heard three hours of testimony and legal arguments from all sides on June 19 before they set July 17 for a vote.
The redemption center opened in spring 2017.
It is one of 25 operated by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which says the center performs the same functions as groceries did with returnable bottles and cans before state law was overhauled in 2011. But opponents argued that it is a "recycling center" that should be in an industrial zone.
Although the site is within city limits, areas to the east and north are outside the city, including Southwest Club Meadow Lane.
Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski represents the area and has met with some of the homeowners.
"I think you are one accident or incident away from where somebody's kid gets finagled with or somebody gets slapped in the head — and you are going to have a militia forming to take care of themselves," he said. "These folks are trying to tell you they can't live this way anymore."
One of them is Joseph Conrad, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1968.
"The noise, the horrific smell … and the new transit people visiting our street have profoundly reduced the livability and value of our homes," he said. "The closer to the collection center, the greater the loss."
He was joined at the June 19 hearing by several neighbors, among them Brandon and Holli Bridgens, Michael Matschiner, Trisha McPherren and Richard Skayhan.
Three officials of Jesuit High School, which is across the highway, also urged the council to reverse the planning director's interpretation.
"Our school is less safe now," said Khalid Maxie, Jesuit's dean of students.
Though Jesuit supports recycling, the problems associated with the redemption center "can only be rectified by relocating the center," said Tom Arndorfer, its president.
A separate challenge was filed by Glenwood 2006, LLC, owner of the building that houses Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital and Laurelwood Animal Hospital to the west.
The owner sought to overturn the city's building permit, but the state Land Use Board of Appeals has no authority over such permits.
The state board did return an appeal by the owner of city approval for exterior modifications to the center. In its Sept. 21, 2017, decision, the board identified a planning director's interpretation as the appropriate way to determine whether the redemption center is permitted by city code.
Dr. Robert Franklin, a veterinarian, identified a list of problems including security, noise, odor, traffic, garbage and drug paraphernalia and transients.
Abby Crouch said she took her dog for an appointment at Laurelwood Animal Hospital a few days after the June 19 hearing, which she attended but did not speak at, and observed a man urinating on hospital property.
She wrote in an email: "The property owners, businesses like Laurelwood Animal Hospital who have been in that location for many years providing wonderful veterinary care for many pets, their clients, and Jesuit High School students and staff should not have to put up with this."
Two sixth-grade science teachers, Susan Duncan and Tiffany Tuan-Parta, spoke in favor of the center.
"We appreciate having a full-service center close to our school," Tuan-Parta said in reference to Meadow Park Middle School.
Kyle Hummel is corporate and community relations coordinator for the Oregon Food Bank, which has joined with the cooperative in some fundraising activities.
"There are people waiting in line, which shows how desperate there is a need for a facility like this in our community," Hummel said. "We are grateful to have a separate resource in our community, not only to recycle and its environmental aspects, but to provide a resource for low-income people of our community who might not have a resource."
Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, said redemption centers came about as a result of the 2011 law that overhauled Oregon's "bottle bill," the iconic 1971 law that imposed a deposit on bottles and cans.
The redemption centers under the 2011 law perform functions similar to what grocers used to do under the 1971 law, he said. The city planning report specified eight participating groceries within two miles of the center.
"The legislation went to great pains to say it was a redemption center. If you define one as a recycling center, you define all of them as recycling centers," Gilliam said.
"It has some adverse affects in some areas and positive effects in others," he added. "But I believe the staff got it right."
Of 25 redemption centers operated by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, just three are in industrial zones. The others — including Beaverton, Forest Grove, Tigard and four others in the Portland area — are in commercial zones.
Beaverton's development code does not regulate criminal activity and nuisance behaviors, but the planning staff did mention an analysis of complaint calls by city police before and after the redemption center opened in 2017.
"The analysis noted an increase in the number of complaints in the time the beverage container redemption center was operating compared to the prior time period," the planning report said. "But (it) did not conclude that there was sufficient evidence that this increase was caused by the presence of the facility."
Jules Bailey, a former state representative and Multnomah County commissioner, is now chief stewardship officer for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. He said if there are problems, the cooperative wants to sit down with neighbors to resolve them.
"We have an interest in keeping the property safe and clean," he said.