The developer behind a proposed Grocery Outlet in Astoria is hoping the City Council will overturn a denial by the Design Review Commission and give them another chance to create an agreeable store layout.
Main & Main Capital Group wants to build a 16,000-square-foot building on a triangle-shaped lot where Commercial Street runs into Marine Drive. The back of the store would face 23rd Street and the new Astoria Co+op slated to open in December in the Mill Pond neighborhood.
The commission denied the new store earlier this month, citing issues with access off of Marine Drive and challenges it would pose for pedestrians as central to their concerns. But Michael Robinson, an attorney for the developer, argued the denial did not reasonably explain under what conditions the project could be approved.
“It is clear from the (Design Review Commission’s) decision that more guidelines were satisfied than were not satisfied,” Robinson wrote in the appeal. “Nevertheless, the (commission) departed from this announced standard and denied the application even though the majority of the guidelines were met.”
He asked the City Council for a de novo — or new — review of the appeal so the developer can submit new evidence showing how it can comply with the city’s development codes and receive a new staff report. If the City Council denies the appeal, the developer could take the issue to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
The Design Review Commission found the store did not fit with the historic character of the Gateway Overlay Zone. Commissioners also took issue with pedestrians on Marine Drive and from the store’s parking lot having to cross a driveway on striped paths to reach the entrance, similar to access at Safeway.
Commission President Jared Rickenbach floated the idea of eliminating access from Marine Drive as a condition of approval, arguing that would address the majority of people’s concerns. Instead, the finding was cited in the 5-0 vote to deny the project.
Robinson argued the commission’s denial fails to explain why Grocery Outlet’s design is not pedestrian-oriented, the appearance is unfitting with the community’s character and a similar-looking co-op was approved nearby. He also took issue with concerns over traffic congestion, arguing that city staff and the state Department of Transportation have concluded direct access off Marine Drive would lessen, not increase, congestion.
City Manager Brett Estes said the request for a de novo hearing will likely be on the City Council agenda on Nov. 4.