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Commission deliberated for two hours before voting to recommend application's approval

COURTESY MAP: CITY OF WOODBURN - The site being considered for the apartment complex is located west of Woodburn Premium Outlets and east of the Woodburn Mobile Estates, outside Woodburn city limites and within the urban growth boundary.The Woodburn Planning Commission decided in a 4-2 vote on Thursday to recommend to the city council the approval of an application for a 300-unit apartment complex and RV storage facility planned for west Woodburn. The potential development has drawn criticism from west Woodburn residents, who have said the apartments would increase traffic and decrease livability in their neighborhood.

The site of the development is west of the Woodburn Premium Outlets, outside Woodburn city limits and within the urban growth boundary. The application was submitted by developer Steve Master.

Public testimony related to the property began at the Woodburn Planning Commission meeting on July 27. The commission accepted written testimony through Aug. 8.

The main source of contention is the developer's plan to extend Arney Lane, which is currently a dead end, to Woodland Avenue, with Steven Street serving as a connector between the two. Residents have said they fear the connection will encourage Woodburn Premium Outlets shoppers to use the relatively insular Woodland Avenue as a thoroughfare.

The application under consideration includes an annexation request, property line adjustments, design reviews, a Riparian Corridor and Wetlands Overlay District permit, a conditional use review for the RV storage area and variances related to screening, parking and landscape buffer requirements.COURTESY RENDERING: CITY OF WOODBURN - The Woodburn Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the application for a 300-unit apartment complex planned for west Woodburn. Above is a rendering depicting one of the 13 residential buildings planned for the site.

The Aug. 10 meeting began with rebuttal from the applicant, who was represented at the meeting by Mackenzie, an architecture, land use planning and civil engineering firm hired by Master to facilitate the application.

In response to the public's testimony, the applicant offered options for signage on Robin Avenue to help with traffic concerns. One option included the installation of a flashing LED stop sign.

And in response to residents' request for a traffic signal at the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Robin Avenue, the Mackenzie's traffic engineers performed an evaluation of traffic volumes at the intersection and concluded it would not serve the interests of residents.

"Due to the volumes, it would primarily serve traffic exiting from the outlet mall and could lead to some delays for people heading southbound on Woodland Avenue," said Brian Varricchione, a land use planner from Mackenzie.

The applicant also offered ideas for how to separate the proposed Arney Lane curb and the residential properties to the west. Those ideas included eliminating on-street parking in that area, or eliminating the landscape strip on the east side of the street, which would allow for a wider landscape on the west side.

Following the rebuttal period Woodburn Planning Commission Chair Charles Piper declared the public hearing closed, a statement that drew ire and suspicion from some residents in attendance.

Community Development Director Chris Kerr reminded the residents in attendance that they would be provided opportunity for further testimony at future city council meetings as the Woodburn City Council considers the application.

The commission deliberated about the application for nearly two hours. All of the commissioners expressed some doubts about the development, especially with regard to traffic.

However, the commissioners struggled to think of any alternative routes out of the planned development that met the city's development ordinances and didn't harm the wetlands located at the site. And the commissioners didn't think the application showed any violations of the Woodburn Development Ordinances or other laws that would prevent them from recommending its approval.

"Traffic is the only thing. The rest of it, in my opinion, they've met the regulations of the city and the county and ODOT," said Commissioner Ronald Aiken. "I don't want to say that I'm totally in favor of how they're working it out, but there's nothing they can do. They have plenty of exit assets off to Arney Lane, but you still gotta Mickey Mouse around to get onto the main road."

"I think the frustration here in this whole issue is, we hear … what the residents want, we hear what their frustration is, we hear their dislike of the project," Piper said. "The problem as I see it, though, is that a lot of these complaints, these wishes for these types of things not to go forward, the problems arose years ago." Piper said the development ordinances, traffic plan and zoning of the property all took place years ago, and public testimony for those laws and plans have long concluded.

In the end, the commissioners voted 4-2 to approve a motion introduced by Piper that recommended approval of the application.

The motion included that the applicant meet city staff's conditions of approval. Those conditions include that the RV storage facility be paved (the applicant requested to use gravel), an additional sign be added to Robin Lane indicating that left turns are permitted from both lanes and that Interstate 5 is accessible from both lanes, and an architectural wall be added to the western property line unless the developer receives written authorization from the adjacent property owner not to build a wall.

The motion accepted the applicant's suggestions for additional signage and the suggestion of eliminating on-street parking on Arney Lane.

And the motion included a condition that the applicant provide an alternative route to the property other than Steven Street due to the traffic impact from the outlet mall.

Piper and Commissioner Sharon Corning were the dissenting votes. Corning expressed concern throughout the deliberation because of traffic and lack of access to the property. Piper disagreed with the caveat related to Steven Street.

The Woodburn City Council will make the final decision regarding the application. A date hasn't been set for a public hearing, but it is expected to take place in September.

Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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