|Council passes auto dealer amendments for 122nd Ave.
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
There may be times when you might say, Ive made up my mind and I dont need any more public input. I could accept that easier than I could putting someone through a run-around. Commissioner Randy Leonard on the proposed OHSU aerial tram, 2002.
With a demeanor that varied from defensive to defiant, the Portland City Council last month officially adopted amendments to code regulations governing development on Northeast and Southeast 122nd Avenue. Commissioner Randy Leonard submitted the amendments, but mirrored requests by the Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships.
The three amendments modified the recommendations of the Planning Bureau staff and the Portland Planning Commission. The first amendment increased the maximum allowed front setback for businesses on the avenue from the 20 feet recommended by the commission to 24; currently it is 10. The second amendment increased the amount of street frontage that can be devoted to vehicle storage and movement from the 50 percent recommended by the commission to 70 percent. The third reduced the size of designated nodes where the strictest rules governing new development apply to 200 feet from the intersections of Northeast Glisan and Southeast Stark streets, and 300 feet from East Burnside Street. This recommendation came from a citizen-working group, but the commission increased the node areas considerably to conform to existing property lines and uses.
The vote was four to zero. Mayor Tom Potter absent for the final vote on June 28 voted with the majority two weeks before.
Council is set to hear three more amendments on Aug. 2. One, proposed by Safeway, would allow it to install gas pumps at its store at 221 N.E. 122nd Ave; currently, such facilities are forbidden in this area, although several gas stations operate as pre-existing uses. A second would change the zoning of some property near East Burnside Street from CM, a zone that allows commercial activity but requires 50 percent of the site to be residential, to CX, which has no such requirement. A third would allow non-conforming buildings to be remodeled and expanded; currently, in such cases the expanded building would have to have a square foot of floor space for every square foot of lot space. The commission reduced the minimum density for new and expanded structures to .4 to 1.
The study was an attempt to reconcile official policy for the area, which calls for high density, pedestrian-oriented development near the 122nd Avenue MAX light rail station, with the needs of car dealers in the area. The projects citizen working group rejected both a get tough policy toward the dealers and a wholesale abandonment of the policies. Instead, they tried to craft a package of compromises that would allow the dealers to function while preserving the spirit of the policies.
Hazelwood Neighborhood Association members who testified at the second hearing expressed dismay at what they seemed to feel was a betrayal of the compromise they had helped craft. Barbara Harrison said she was very disappointed that Leonard had prepared his amendments before hearing public testimony. Why did we spend a year reaching a compromise? she asked. Was anyone listening when we testified on the 15th? I hope so. We intended to bring a balanced approach to the situation. There are times when we need to step back and think about what is good for everyone and our long-term goals for 122nd. The amendments ignore established city policy.
The intent of the working group was to avoid having 122nd become an auto row, but allow dealers to make changes in their property, Harrison said. Referring to Tonkin employees who live in the area, Harrison said, If they live within walking distance, they can also shop and visit the dentist on foot.
Hazelwood Chair Arlene Kimura warned against allowing the dealers to be too dominant on the street. Dependence on a single mode of business is not wise, she said. We used to depend on forestry, and when that went south, the economy did too. The same thing happened with high tech. We ask all to make some sacrifices.
Tonkin Consultant Peter Finley Fry said that the amendments better reflected what the working group had proposed, and attacked the commissions approach. The original 200 x 200 size of the nodes reflected a typical city block, and was not picked out of the air. The 50 percent frontage rule never came up in the working group...this is not a fine-grained urban fabric of 5,000-square-foot lots. The working group process was a very, very healthy process. To have it thwarted in a frankly political way is frustrating.
Hazelwoods Linda Robinson countered, It is my understanding that all three amendments did not reflect the working group. The nodes true, that was a change. We felt all along that 200 feet was way too small. This was supposed to be a balance between the neighborhood and the dealers. Its gone way, way over to them.
Brad Tonkin said he thought the amendments were very fair and equitable.
Leonard lashed out at planners Joe Zehnder and Barry Manning when they brought an analysis of his amendments rather than just findings to support them. Manning proposed a new plan for the nodes. He also said that a 50 percent frontage requirement would be more urban. If council insisted on 70 percent, they should consider requiring a larger landscaped buffer, he said.
Why are you telling us this? Leonard asked. We directed you to come back with findings. Was anything unclear about those instructions? You seem to have spent your time developing new proposals.
Zehnder replied that the previous session had produced a tentative vote. This process was all about balancing interests, he said.
Zehnder conceded that Leonards amendment on the size of the nodes reflected what the working group proposed. The group never made a specific recommendation on frontage. Manning said the planners realized that the allowed storage areas plus driveways would lead to a large amount of frontage devoted to cars.