The fate of a proposed industrial site on the Gresham-Fairview border could hinge on a simple question: Are we touching, or not even close?
Approximately 300 feet separate the front doors of Fairview's upscale Interlachen neighborhood and the planned truck bays of a two-warehouse development in Gresham.
Branded as Blue Lake Corporate Park, the project would create roughly 63,500 square feet of industrial space on 42 acres of fallow farmland owned by the Cereghino family. The project is located off Northeast Riverside Parkway at the eastern edge of Gresham's urban renewal area.
Gresham urban planners issued the development a conditional land-use permit in June, but Fairview residents then filed four challenges of that decision. A successful appeal could quash or delay construction of the project, developed by real estate investment firm Trammell Crow.
Part of the neighbor's appeal points to a provision of Gresham city code that prohibits constructing semi-truck docks that are "adjacent" to parks and residential subdivisions, unless there's no alternative way to layout loading and unloading areas.
"The city is supposed to follow those codes, rather than being sort of excited and drooling about a new industrial development that will pay a lot of taxes," argued attorney Karl Anuta on Thursday, Aug. 3 at Gresham City Hall.
"To (say) that these uses aren't adjacent, given the code definition of adjacent, is rather mind-boggling," he continued.
But is 300 feet truly adjacent?
"That's as tall as the Statue of Liberty if we lay it down on the city of Gresham," shot back Zoee Lynn Powers, another lawyer. "(Anuta's made) dozens of arguments without merit in order to increase costs ... apparently in hopes that the development will just go away."
The warehouses would be built without confirmed tenants, but Trammell Crow noted they might attract clients similar to their partnerships with Subaru in Gresham or Amazon.com in Troutdale.
There are many warehouses in the northeastern wedge of Gresham's urban renewal area.
But by zone, Trammell Crow could build anything from "solid or liquid waste management, racetracks or large-scale dry cleaning plants," remarked Vice President Steve Sieber.
"(This will) allow Gresham to achieve its goal of creating an environment of sustainable prosperity," said Sieber, who's worked for Trammell Crow since 2005. "There is a widening gap where high-wage and low-wage jobs are increasing, but middle income jobs are static."
Trammell Crow has proposed extending screening by 800 feet more than what's required, and has offered to build a 6-foot raised berm with trees and shrubs, which is more expensive than the wall required by city code.
Trammell Crow says the truck bays face Fairview because residents wanted to look at the preserved wetlands, not the back of a building. Sewer lines beneath the farmland make a different layout impossible, executives say.
For now, the decision to OK or nix construction rests with Joe Turner, a contracted attorney paid by Gresham City Hall. Either side could appeal his verdict to the Land Use Board of Appeals.
"I have to apply what the city of Gresham has adopted," Turner said at the dais. "If you think the laws need to be changed, you could work with staff and City Council to do that."