The public will get a chance to weigh in Tuesday on redevelopment of the former Talent Truck Stop site on West Valley View Road.
A trucking industry consultant appealed the city Planning Commission’s approval of a proposal for truck and car refueling on the site.
City Hearings Officer Rick Whitlock will consider testimony on the project at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall, 206 E. Main St. Whitlock will need to rule by Nov. 21 to avoid litigation, because the city is obligated to make a final decision on the application within 120 days of its acceptance.
Northwest Properties & Investments LLC has proposed the Talent Travel Center, which would feature refueling for diesel big rigs and cars, along with a 13,000-square-foot convenience store, a 24-hour restaurant and a trucker’s lounge on the 5.4-acre site. Existing buildings at 251 W. Valley View Road would be removed.
The previous operation did not refuel passenger vehicles or have a convenience store. Estimates call for 100 daily big-rig visits to the site, which is on the primary street between Interstate 5 and the city center.
“It’s ill-conceived and it just doesn’t work. There needs to be a traffic study,” said Gary Hall of Medford, a consultant who filed the appeal. “Adding a gas station is something much bigger (than the previous use)."
Developer Bob Krohn says Hall has ties to nearby truck stops, including Petro in Phoenix and Pilot in Central Point, that might be affected by a new trucking center. Hall was the owner and operator of the Pear Tree Truck and Auto Center, the predecessor to the Petro truck stop in Phoenix. He describes himself as a truck stop and travel center business consultant.
Hall said while he has worked for both companies in the past he isn’t working for anyone with this appeal. He said he also has concerns with the northbound on and off ramps at Exit 21, where he’s seen trucks tip over. Visibility is limited for big rigs stopped at West Valley View Road after exiting I-5, he said.
Hall’s attorney, E. Michael Connors of Hathaway Larson LLP, Portland, listed several objections to the approval. Among them are:
• A new traffic impact study should have been required.
• The Planning Commission relied on the applicant’s flawed traffic study. The study was based on old studies of truck stops.
• The commission did not address traffic impacts at Exit 21.
• The commission erred in concluding the development complies with floodway and floodplain regulations.
Krohn says the redevelopment is consistent with zoning already in place on the property and that the appeal is raising criteria that would be required if the land’s classification were under consideration for change.
“We are a conforming use. We are not asking for a zone change. This use is consistent with laud-use plans, so those items are not required by the city code,” said Krohn.
Neighbors of the project who live in the Oak Valley subdivision just across Wagner Creek were vocal with their concerns before the Planning Commission. A group of eight homeowners filed an appeal, but it was subsequently withdrawn.
Kathleen Finnegan, who lives in Oak Valley, filed the appeal for the group, but she withdrew it after learning she could be liable for hearing and legal costs depending on the outcome.
Neighbor concerns include noise, vibrations and potential pollution of Wagner Creek. The project will have impacts on residents in the 55-plus community, said Finnegan.
Krohn proposed planting cedars between the areas, but it would be 25 years before they are full-gown, said Finnegan.
“Basically the mitigation was moot. We wanted some more time to look at this and figure out how to mitigate; perhaps a berm or a soundproof wall,” said Finnegan. “We don’t expect them to go away, but we expected more mitigation.”
Some residents would be within 100 feet of the truck stop, said Dan Davis, who had signed Finnegan’s appeal. He said design of the business could be improved to make it more compatible with the community.
Commissioners approved the redevelopment Sept. 28 by a 5 to 2 vote.
The hearing is de novo, meaning that new evidence can be introduced and that speakers need not have previously established standing to raise concerns. Testimony should be directed at criteria that apply to the approval.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.