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Local News: Astoria City Council hears Grocery Outlet testimony

Local News: Astoria City Council hears Grocery Outlet testimony

Tuesday night the Astoria City Council voted to close public hearings on the proposed Grocery Outlet project in the Mill Pond area of Astoria. The move means that the council will accept written rebuttal from the project developers and owners, but will not hear more public testimony. They’ll take up the issue again Feb. 3

(Script follows, scroll down to Listen [4:38])

By Joanne Rideout

The Grocery Outlet is appealing, to the city council, a denial by the Astoria Design Review Commission. Public testimony Tuesday night covered a wide range of objections, with those against the project citing the overcrowding of the area, and related problems, that would occur if the store went in at that location.

The design changes that Grocery Outlet brought to the table were visibly different from the original proposal. Changes included windows added to the south side of the building, and redesigned signage. Dan Dover, a representative for Grocery Outlet, told the council that the company had done its best to comply with requests.

Dan Dover:

“We just need direction on how to work with the city on the design of this site. The site is an allowed use by zone. We are just doing our best to take direction from the city to conform to what you want. We need specific direction on how to accomplish that. Every bit of direction we’ve been given so far we’ve complied with, only to be denied at the DRC. So, we’re a little confused and we just would like very specific direction from the council.”

Some audience members said the project was just wrong for the location.

Rick Nyes, a traffic engineer with GreenLight Engineering, in Lake Oswego, and hired by the Astoria Co-op to assess the impact of the proposal, said the Grocery Outlet plans did not meet the spirit or intent of the city’s master plan, among other concerns. The co-op recently opened a new store a block from the proposed Grocery Outlet location.

Nyes said the Grocery Outlet is located in the Gateway area of Astoria, which is included in the city’s master plan. He said part of that plan limits business direct access to Marine Drive to facilitate traffic flow. Nyes said the ADC had supported the master plan in their decision to deny the project. Nyes referenced the Shell gas station and mini-mart next to the proposed Grocery Outlet site:

Rick Nyes:

“The current proposal is remove one of the gas station driveways. That’s a low volume driveway which would be traded for a higher volume driveway for the Grocery Outlet. In my view that’s not a good trde. Additionally the Marine Drive access which failed to meet ODOT standards for access spacing and sight distance, the applicant has provided no tangible evidence that there’s a need for this Marine Drive access.”

Nyes said the proposed the Marine drive access points also create hazards for pedestrians. He also mentioned that the project posed a threat to a proposed ODOT plan to eventually realign 23rd Street with Exchange Street.

Karen Haines is a resident of the Mill Pond neighborhood near the proposed store site. She talked about traffic congestion and the loss of street parking since the new co-op building went in along Marine Drive in that area. She said the Grocery Outlet will make it worse.

Karen Haines:

“This applicant has overloaded the site with 16,000 sq. ft facility, that’s 40 percent larger than the neighboring co-op facility. The applicant could put a smaller footprint on the site, and greatly improve the pedestrian access and safety, and neighborhood impacts. The applicant’s design creates offsite impacts that need to be addressed. Since the Co-op has moved in, we’ve had the opportunity to see some of the neighborhood impacts with a grocery store in our area. I have to say the Co-op is a wonderful neighbor, but there is visibly more traffic on the neighborhood streets. And the traffic that is of most concern is truck traffic.”

The meeting lasted about two hours, after which the council closed public testimony and moved to reconvene for council discussion at their Feb. 3 meeting.

Grocery Outlet is a supermarket company that offers discount, overstocked and closeout products from name brand and private label suppliers. The company has stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

In other city business Tuesday, the council voted to accept proposed changes to the city’s Riverfront Vision Plan for the Urban Core area. The changes are part of a lengthy effort by the council to make city code more conservative with regard to development, and limit waterfront building heights to 28-35 feet, among other provisions to control growth.

I’m Joanne Rideout reporting.