Initial denial based on traffic, safety concerns

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Wilsonville City Council upheld an appeal by Wilsonville Devco and applicant Josh Veentjer of an earlier denial of their application for a drive-thru coffee stand at this location in north Wilsonville. The property already contains a busy service station and fast food restaurant and opponents worry the resulting traffic will overwhelm the site. It looks like a drive-thru coffee kiosk may soon be coming to Wilsonville after all.

The Wilsonville City Council voted 3-0 March 17 to overturn a denial by the development review board for a Human Bean coffee kiosk at the southeast corner of Southwest 95th Avenue and Boones Ferry Road, adjacent to Carl's Jr. and a Chevron service station.

DRB members cited traffic and pedestrian circulation and safety concerns in turning down applicant Josh Veentjer’s initial application at a February public hearing.

Veentjer and his Wilsonville Devco development firm subsequently filed an appeal of the DRB decision that was accepted by the council for review.

On March 17, Mayor Tim Knapp led a shorthanded council missing two members in upholding Veentjer’s plans. The decision came after a three-hour public hearing that featured accusations of dishonesty, obfuscation and outright deception on both sides.

Despite claims by Chevron owner Gary LaPoint that Veentjer misled both he and the city as to his final intentions, councilors concluded there really was no legal basis for the DRB’s initial denial.

“I do not see a legal basis in our code to withhold approval,” Knapp said after making a motion to overturn the DRB denial. “I do not see wording that would allow adjacent properties’ congestion to be the factor that would control the wording that is recommended by staff.”

Therein lays the rub for LaPoint, who told the council he signed a legally binding development agreement with Veentjer that would allow the latter to access his property via a mutually agreed-upon easement linking the two parcels.

“It seems to me that the easement question is the primary source of potential conflict on the adjacent site,” Knapp said. “And our action cannot answer that question. That is a question that derives from an existing agreement that has its own resolution, with whatever answers that comes up with. I don’t believe or see anything in our code that would protect that agreement from this application, nor probably should it.”

The DRB cited sections 4.154, 4.155, 4.400 and 4.421 of Wilsonville City Code in turning down Veentjer’s application. Those sections broadly cover on-site traffic congestion and the adequacy, efficiency and safety of on-site pedestrian and vehicle circulation. But in doing so, Knapp argued, DRB members overstepped how those requirements were meant to apply to a neighboring property rather than the property being analyzed.

“So I’m looking at the barest facts I can as to what our code says about our criteria and applying it directly to the facts we’ve heard,” Knapp said. “And I don’t see anything to hang your hat on that says this is unreasonable or outside our code.”

The question of the easement cast a long shadow across the entire hearing, but in the end will likely prove to be a matter for the two parties themselves to negotiate and solve. Whether it triggers litigation remains to be seen. But Veentjer’s attorney, Steven Pfeiffer of Portland firm Perkins-Cole, told the council that despite LaPoint’s threat to place a locked gate across the easement to prevent coffee stand customers from using his property, such a move would likely do just that.

Not only are potential traffic issues merely speculative, Pfeiffer said, formulating policy in this manner could have a paralyzing effect.

“There’s a lot of revisionist history going on here,” Pfeiffer said. “We don’t care if they block that easement with a fuel truck, but that apocalyptic view would mean that you and your staff could not ever approve anything.”

Pfeiffer added that Veentjer has no problem with the three conditions of approval that were tacked onto the council’s resolution to uphold the appeal. They include no vehicles over 30 feet long on the property, circulation between the Chevron and Human Bean properties shall be without an accompanying curb cut unless an easement is granted or found. And finally, a stop line will be required for vehicle traffic moving out of the Human Bean lot onto the Carl’s Jr. property.

Remaining unanswered are questions about how the new coffee stand will impact traffic in an already crowded property with only a single access point to and from Southwest 95th Avenue.

But Veentjer reassured councilors that peak business times for Human Bean and Carl’s Jr. are very different.

“They are very complementary in that nature,” Veentjer said. “Cars, at any given time, probably won’t overlap at peak periods because they are so spread apart.”

By Josh Kulla
Assistant Editor / Photographer
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