Three property owners have appealed a city decision to allow the Astoria Co-op Grocery to build a new store in Mill Pond.
The organic and natural food store cleared several city design and permitting hurdles for an expansion planned for the corner of 23rd Street and Marine Drive. But property and homeowners in the neighborhood have objected to aspects of the project, worried about traffic snarls and the impact on quality of life.
The appeal filed by Cheryl Storey, Barbara Bower and John Ryan will go before the City Council on July 30. Bower has hired a land use attorney to represent her.
City Councilor Zetty Nemlowill, the co-op’s marketing director, is expected to recuse herself. For the appeal to prevail, the other city councilors must vote 3-1 in favor of the property owners. If the vote is split 2-2, it will count as a denial and the co-op will be able to proceed.
The Design Review Committee approved the co-op’s plans for a new store in a 4-1 vote in June. In their appeal, the property owners cite traffic, concerns over how vehicles would access and leave the store’s parking lot, and how the building is situated, among other issues.
They ask that the co-op use 23rd Street as the main access to the store instead of Steamwhistle Way, a narrow road to the north of the property that gives residents access to their garages. At past meetings, co-op representatives said they would widen Steamwhistle Way and change signage to minimize the impact on neighbors.
“I think the community at large thinks we’re against the co-op,” said Storey, the president of the Mill Pond Village Owners Association.
She feels like their point has not been heard: “We’re not against the co-op, just change the location of the building.”
Some members of city boards who reviewed the co-op’s application echoed the residents’ concerns about traffic flow through the neighborhood. But Matt Stanley, the co-op’s general manager, believes the co-op has done its best to address those fears. The co-op wants to move because it has outgrown its store on Exchange Street downtown.
“We think it works,” Stanley said of the expansion plan, and added, “We have 4,000 plus household owners that co-own our community business. This is a local venture that is really poised and ready to go to make this happen and a lot of people are frustrated that it’s delayed. We have made accommodations for the people impacted there. We understand their concerns.”
“We tried to accommodate their requests as much as we could,” said Don Vallaster, a Portland architect who owns the property where the store wants to build and is working with the co-op to develop the site.
If the property owners are hiring attorneys, he said, “I guess we’ll have to, too.”
“It’s not our desire to go that route, but it looks like that’s where it’s going.”