Resident rallies against Panda Express plan
As construction is about to start on a new Panda Express at the northwest corner of Highway 99W and Elliott Road, at least one area resident is calling on the city to halt any further development on that corner until increased traffic and safety concerns are addressed.
Seeing increased traffic on the street, longtime Elliott Road resident Dan Dhondt is working to rally his neighbors to sway the city to change course on the development.
"Elliott Road has been transformed from a relatively quiet street (excepting school traffic in the morning and afternoon), to a street that is now so busy that a person has to look not only twice to cross it, but the simple task of pulling out of your driveway now requires waiting for traffic to pass," he said in an email. "This was not the case less than a year ago, nor was it a problem in the years previous."
While Panda Express is the current development under city design review, he also took issue with the increased traffic allegedly generated by the Old Mill Marketplace, which contains businesses like Starbucks, Sushi Hunter Izakaya and the Newberg Growler House.
Stuart Brown, owner and developer of the Old Mill Marketplace, said the proposed fast-food restaurant and a two-story office building are under design review — both of which on parcels that have been sold — are actually scaled back from the higher-density development that was planned for the area.
As an example, he noted that the Panda Express is the sole occupant of a 2,200-square-foot building compared to the original plan for a 6,000-square-foot building with three tenants.
"I totally appreciate that things are changing around the community. The reality is, though, that this project was approved for much more intense use than is actually being proposed to be used," Brown said. "It's less intense use than was originally approved, and there were no objections then."
Brown also noted that the proposed office building would also add 20 parking spaces and complete the development in a way that will alleviate some space concerns in a less intensive way than was originally planned.
While Dhondt could not be reached directly, he explained in a detailed voice message how he recalls sympathizing with the development at the time and raising no objection.
However, he said now that seems like a mistake since the increasing traffic has cut into his ability to enjoy his front yard and the neighborhood.
"In hindsight, I'm now realizing that that was an error and oversight on my part because I should have actively participated at that point to express concerns about traffic that I simply had not considered then in the least," he said. "I do think that safety and other things have been compromised as a result of this and I do feel like it's an oversight."
Among his specific requests to the city is that an independent traffic study be conducted by someone other than the developer.
Community Development Director Doug Rux said the city received four comments during the public comment period for the Panda Express application, and staff will review those in the course of their decision. He did not confirm whether Dhondt's comments were among those received during the comment period, which ended June 24.