The expectations of a hearing officer at one of these meetings, as previously noted, are specific; those supporting or opposing an applicant's proposal are to limit themselves to speaking to the merits or demerits of the application, and not be too "political" or philosophical. In the city's eyes, zoning is a subject of purely legal nature (whether or not that's actually ever true). Rohter brought five supporters with him to speak on behalf of New Seasons. Only one addressed the application. The remainder delivered p.r. testimonials that would be better placed in television ads. This went to show again that Rohter's modus operandi is an old and familiar one: smile and greenwash, smile and greenwash. Everything's a sell-job. What a sad way to live, really... |
Four people spoke in opposition. All four carefully addressed particular points in the application, although one asked the hearing officer if this was really necessary since those speaking in support hadn't. "Say what you want," the hearing officer said. "I'll only take note of what I need to." The major points covered by the opposition:
One person also testified that the Sellwood New Seasons has greatly exacerbated traffic on SE Tacoma and that she believed the Division store would therefore be much worse than Rohter and his cadre were predicting.
- The scale of the store. At 25,000 square feet, it would be one of the largest businesses along Division until you get out to 82nd. Not only is this out-of-scale with the neighborhood, but it seems to violate the current zoning, "CN2", whih is for "uses that are small scale and have little impact".
- Transportation/traffic. Activists felt that not enough attention was given to bicyclists and pedestrians in the application and that the number of expected cars (330 per day) was too low. The city traffic engineer who made that estimate said it was the standard city number for a grocery store of that size. Activists felt that the city was underestimating the popularity of New Seasons.
- The duplex. Activists felt strongly that the duplex's lot should not be rezoned commercial, or the house demolished or removed. Concerns were about the importance of housing and the character of the neigborhood.
- Character of the neighborhood. Activists felt that a store of this size, with so much parking, and so much traffic, would violate the residential character of the neighborhood. People also felt that the property definitely is in need of fixin' (especially the huge parking lot) but that the New Seasons plan is the wrong way of going about it.
There are three distinct changes being requested by New Seasons and the hearing officer will himself decide two of them: Whether or not the duplex lot is rezoned commercial, and whether or not the turning lane on SE Division can be taken out and the store's front built out a newly laid out sidewalk there. The third issue -- whether or not a section of the parking lot that is currently zoned residential can be changed to commercial -- will go to City Council with the hearing officer's recomendation of yea or nay.
Comments can still be submitted to the Land Use Review people by August 25 at 4:30 p.m. New Seasons will have until Sept. 2 to rebut these comments. People submitting comments are allowed to present new evidence (issues or details undiscussed so far) but New Seasons may not; they can merely respond at this stage. The hearing officer must then respond with his (dis)approval within 17 days. So this subject will be going on for at least another month regarding these particular issues. Additionally, it is possible to appeal the hearing officer's decision, which can delay things even longer.
This process with the city is focused on esoteric details; there are guidelines and plans hundreds of pages in length that outline this system. If you're coming to it new, it's hard to know how to get in and do it right. All sorts of concerns that people might have with New Seasons were irrelevant to this hearing, and yet this is the only legal place to try to address it. When it comes down to it, we are mostly powerless over our neighborhoods and what happens in them. Rich people can buy what they want and do what they want with it with few strings attached, and completely change the nature of our homes. It sucks. The system is not clear, responsive, or effective to regular people.
Noentheless, activists plan to submit more comments within the seven day period. A few more points need to be made clear, in their opinion, and it is possible that New Seasons will have to change its plans and adjust to a more limited scope. Stay tuned to the Portland IMC for more updates on this story...