The Astoria Co-op Grocery has changed the layout of a new store in Mill Pond to satisfy neighbor concerns.
The natural and organic food store plans to move from downtown Astoria to a site near Columbia Memorial Hospital, but has faced pushback from neighbors concerned about the new building’s configuration and possible traffic impacts.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Astoria city councilors had expected to uphold their decision affirming the co-op’s original plans. Three property owners had appealed the Design Review Committee’s decision to the City Council in July.
Instead, the council heard a joint request from the co-op and the property owners, who asked to reopen the public hearing and allow developer Don Vallaster to submit an alternative layout for the new store.
Under the new design, cars would access the store using 23rd Street, directly off of Marine Drive, instead of Steam Whistle Way, a narrow street on the north side of the lot that runs along the back of the Mill Pond residents’ lots.
In their appeal, residents had worried about the impact of grocery store traffic on the neighborhood if Steam Whistle Way was the primary access road. They argued that the street was intended as a neighborhood alley. During the hearings process, they asked Vallaster and co-op representatives to consider a layout that used 23rd Street instead of Steam Whistle Way.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the co-op to submit the alternative layout. City Manager Brett Estes said staff will review the design. The city will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Sept. 24 to consider the changes.
“The two parties have obviously had some fruitful discussion that will help ease the tension between the two of them,” City Councilor Tom Brownson said. “I’m all for taking a look at it.”
After the city councilors voted, Matt Stanley, the co-op’s general manager, swiveled in his seat to give Cheryl Storey a thumbs-up and a smile. Storey, president of the Mill Pond Village Owners Association, was one of the people who appealed the city’s approval of the co-op’s original plans. She says she is thrilled with the direction the grocery store is taking now.
“We’re all relieved that we’ve reached a resolution,” she said.
Even when the property owners appealed the decision to City Council, they emphasized that they were not against the co-op’s plans to build a new store and expand. They were against the building’s configuration and traffic impacts on the neighborhood.
Stanley said the decision to use 23rd Street instead of Steam Whistle Way was counterintuitive to developers, but he believes the two groups have come up with a solution that will work.
“We’re really hopeful now at this point that we’ll be able to move forward,” he said.