A new dialysis center could be built along the Astoria Riverwalk after the Astoria Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the business Tuesday night.
Many of the planning commissioners were initially reluctant to OK new construction in the aging parking lot between Sixth and Seventh streets off Marine Drive since that area is zoned for tourist-oriented development. Other commissioners argued that part of what makes Astoria attractive to visitors is the fact that it is a “working town.”
“In terms of facilities for tourists, the thing that makes Astoria what it is, is when you make choices that benefit the people who live here,” Commissioner Jan Mitchell said. “It makes it more a place that people want to come to.”
She believed the commissioners were trying to juggle a code that was adopted “when we didn’t realize exactly what was going to balance out this community.”
Fresenius Kidney Care’s dialysis clinic operates out of the Park Medical building across from Columbia Memorial Hospital. Representatives say the clinic has outgrown the space. They looked at more than 20 other buildings and sites around Astoria, but few fit the clinic’s requirements. The single-story building developer Chester Trabucco has proposed for the Sixth Street site would allow the clinic to expand from the 12 dialysis stations for in-center treatment it has at the Park Building to 17. An expansion would answer a growing demand for dialysis services in the area and existing patients would have more treatment time slots to choose from, representatives said.
Kendall Beatty, area director of operations for Fresenius Kidney Care, pointed out that the clinic often serves visitors to Astoria during the summer months.
Planning Commissioner Kent Easom said “we don’t have people beating our doors down” to develop the parking lot property.
“This is something that is definitely needed in our community, and unfortunately it’s a growing business,” he added.
The commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the conditional use application. New commissioner Joan Herman was the sole “no” vote. She said she was worried about placing a dialysis facility in the shoreline zone, “especially since there are so few such sites left in Astoria along the waterfront.”
The Planning Commission’s approval came with some conditions, as recommended by city staff, including design review by the Historic Landmarks Commission and the submittal of an updated parking plan. Different groups also own different sections of the property. Trabucco will be required to provide proof of single ownership or an irrevocable easement for use of the entire property.
Earlier, Trabucco had told The Daily Astorian he hoped to build medical and financial services buildings at the site. City Planner Nancy Ferber said Tuesday that the plan went through several iterations and had been narrowed down to just the one proposal.
Trabucco is listed as the president of No. 10 Sixth Street, Ltd, a company that includes local accountant Steve Allen and Deb Bowe, a real estate agent. The company owns one corner of the lot and has agreements with the other property owners to develop the rest of the lot once permits to build are in hand, according to Trabucco.
A previous configuration of Trabucco’s company involved Lake Oswego-based developer Eric Jacobsen, one of Trabucco’s former business partners.
In 2010, Jacobsen had taken control of the company in a receivership, attempting to recoup more than $840,000 in debt. That same year, two former cannery buildings also held by the company and located over the water at the base of Sixth Street, beyond the parking lot where the dialysis center is now proposed, had been scheduled for a foreclosure hearing and sale. But they burned in a massive fire before the foreclosure process concluded. The only structure still standing at the site is a city-maintained viewing platform.
In other business Tuesday, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use application to locate light manufacturing at the Van Dusen Building at the corner of Duane and 10th streets. Astoria Makers, a design and fabrication business, is looking to expand its offerings at the new location. Since taking ownership, the group has repainted and cleaned up the building.
Astoria Makers plans to provide artists studios, membership that allows access to tools and workshops, as well as classes and other educational offerings.