Planning Commission discusses fuel station ordinance

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The Planning Commission discussed criteria for a possible new ordinance that would allow fuel stations to be erected in other parts of the city during an Aug. 18 work session.
At its May 19 meeting, the commission recommended an investigation into whether the development code should be amended to allow fueling stations in other zones.
The discussion arose because the owner of Grampa’s Grocery, at the corner of Stoltz Hill and Airport roads, had expressed interest in installing a fuel station, according to discussions among the commissioners.
Currently, fuel stations are only allowed in the highway commercial zone, which runs along the South Santiam Highway. The commissioners wanted to know if it was appropriate to expand them to other zones, such as mixed use or industrial, and if any specific siting characteristics are required.
Community Development Director Kelly Hart looked at codes in several cities throughout the state and found most cities permit fueling stations in different zones, but Salem does so only on highway areas. Some cities required specific standards, such as sites on particular roadways or locations, and landscape, lighting or lot size standards.
Hart recommended that if commissioners wanted to expand fuel station opportunities throughout the city, they might consider only allowing them on corners of intersections in mixed use zones where, at minimum, a minor arterial street crosses.
“That way, you maintain it on those higher traffic areas that are more intended for commercial use,” she said.
She also recommended a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet, buffer areas between residences, and fencing standards that reduce car lights shining on homes.
Commissioner Todd Prenoveau expressed concerns about making changes.
“We’re talking about an established town that has residents that have been here for 50 years, and now we’re changing it for them,” he said. “That’s the concern I’ve got. I feel we have an obligation to make sure the public is heard, and we do what the public wants to do.”
Commission Chair Jeremy Salvage agreed, but noted that the public has opportunities to speak on the matter before it would become official.
“I personally think there’s a place in town for, like, a neighborhood gas station as the town gets bigger,” he said.
But Salvage didn’t like the idea of an ordinance that ties their hands if a proposal simply checks all the boxes, he said.
“We already feel like our hands are tied a lot of these times, when the public comes with legitimate concerns but it meets all the criteria,” he said.
Salvage wanted more flexibility to be able to approve, in this case, having a fuel station in one location but not another.
“That’s where I feel the conditional use will give us a lot more flexibility,” he said.
Hart explained that the commission can request conditional use permits to require an applicant to consider certain factors – such as noise, smells or lighting generated from a business – and find ways to mitigate those concerns. Certain standards can be applied as long as there’s justification for them, she said.
It seemed that one of the main concerns about modifying the ordinance centered around public response should an applicant attempt to put a station in a residential area.
“Any time you’re going to put in a condition or mitigation, there needs to be a justification,” Hart reiterated. “There would need to be the conversation of what is the justification to restrict a service station from being next to a residential use when half of our existing businesses that are of this business are right next to residential. There is absolutely a perceived ‘not wanting it in my backyard,’ but when you have four existing businesses that are right next to them, is there truly an impact that would cause you to not approve a project when you already have that circumstance that’s in there?
“That’s where the conditions come into play, where you can then at least mitigate that concern with enhancing the landscaping with creating larger buffers that don’t currently exist in other businesses, but you could then provide them on those new ones.”
The commission requested that Hart draw up a draft ordinance not yet subject to public hearing that includes mixed use and industrial zones. The draft will include that the ordinance is subject to a conditional use permit, with a code amendment that would include expanded landscaping and minimum lot size requirements, as well as lighting and fencing standards for gas stations adjacent to residential zones.
The commission will review the draft and discuss any further desired criteria. After that, if the commission agrees to move forward, the public hearing process will begin.
In other business, the commission:
♦ Held a public hearing and approved annexation for A-21-03, two lots located at 4070 S. Santiam Highway. The property is located on the west side of S. Santiam Highway, north of Crowfoot Road, where the Moose Lodge is situated. The property is 1.71 acres and is hereby assigned a Residential Mixed Density (Z-RM) zone.
♦ Recommended City Council approval for a proposed Comprehensive Plan Map amendment (CPMA-21-01) for property located at 333 Crowfoot Road to modify the comprehensive plan designation from highway commercial (C-CM) to mixed use (C-MU). The property is within county unincorporated area within the city’s urban growth boundary. The owners are converting the building into their residence.