June 23, 2018 — The City of Florence Planning Commission held a meeting on June 12, to discuss the new Cannery Station project, a multi-use development that could bring hundreds of jobs and new residents to the community.
The project will have a whole host of features geared toward the 55+ community, including transitional housing, an assisted living facility with a memory care unit, apartment complexes, homes and multiple storefronts that can hold shops, business and restaurants.
The meeting was not to approve a finalized plan of the project, but to approve the overall concept and construct guidelines in the next phases of the project that will bring cemented plans before the commission.
While the 10-year project could help foster growth within Florence, there have been concerns about Cannery Station’s impact on the city, including issues with traffic and concerns from neighboring communities.
But along with the concerns, there are also high hopes that the project will truly cement Florence as a “City in Motion.”
Cannery Station, or Cannery Hill as it was originally named, was first proposed in 2008 by Arlie & Company, a development company founded by the husband and wife team John Musumeci and Suzanne Arlie. The company was responsible for the mixed-use, urban center Crescent Village in Eugene.
“They had wanted some rental properties I had, and they said in exchange for that I would be part of their Florence property,” said Chuck McGlade, one of the founders of the Cannery Station project.
McGlade is a physician by trade who has dedicated his work to senior care for the past 15 years. He also owns Ridgeline Management Company, which manages senior housing in multiple states.
Arlie and Musumeci thought that his experience would be a good fit for Cannery.
In 2008, they proposed their plans to the city, and it seemed like the project was a “go.”
“We want to make it its own little community so that as many possible amenities could be co-located,” McGlade said. “It’s more of a nodal center than just senior living. The hope is that it will be a vibrant, residential area that will include older people, younger people, little shops, restaurants and some amenities that will make it interesting to live in.”
He also believed the north-of-town location would make a great visual and economical entrance to the City of Florence.
But by 2009, the Great Recession was in full swing. Multiple planned projects throughout Florence were ended, Cannery among them.
“Then the crash occurred, the plans were dashed,” McGlade said. “It was an unusual roller coaster, to say the least.”
The project was extended for two years with the hopes that the losses would only be monetary. But they weren’t, and by 2010 Arlie & Company dipped into bankruptcy. Around that time, Musumeci succumbed to cancer. A year later, Arlie did as well.
“In the course of the year, the principals who were guiding the project were dead, and I was left with the project,” McGlade said.
He had some development experience as well, so he stuck with the project, working on the designs and looking for investors.
“I needed to find people who believed in the vision, and this is quite difficult to do because of the location,” McGlade recalled. “People who lend money usually want to be in larger urban centers.”
He was able to find some overseas investors, mostly in China.
It should be noted that the project is not officially funded right now. To be able to have investments finalized, permits have to be given to the project. But McGlade has guarantees that the initial investment is secure. And if there’s unseen financial problems in the future?
“I can’t predict if another recession is going to happen,” he said. “It’s already happened in our lifetime and a lot of people suffered as a result. I hope it doesn’t happen, but who am I to say? I can’t guarantee anything. But I’ve stuck with this project for 10 years so I hope that shows a good level of determination to see this through.”
With the promised money, McGlade able to partner with American United Development Group, creating Cannery Station Development, LLC. One of the project managers is Bryan Cavaness, who represented the company in the Florence Planning Commission meeting.
City of Florence Planning Commission Chairperson John Murphey read aloud the official description of the project:
“Cannery Station, preliminary plan unit development (PUD). An application for a PUD … for an eight-phase mixed-use development with 31 proposed lots over a 10-year period. The 17-acre parcel is located east of Highway 101, across from Fred Meyer, west of Florentine Estates, north of the Community Baptist Church and south of Munsel Lake Rd.”
The audience was overflowing, a rare site for a planning meeting, and extra chairs had to be brought in to the meeting at the Florence Events Center.
“What are they proposing?” City of Florence Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell asked while giving the staff report. “They are proposing to build a mixed-use PUD. It will have a mixture of commercial, residential and different densities of residentials.”
The first phase, which will be located on the southwest corner of the property, would have the bulk of the commercial aspects of the project, including an assisted living facility. This section will be a 55-and-over community.
“In phase one, there will be a 70-bed assisted living facility, 20 of which will be specialized memory care,” Cavaness said. “We have worked with this developer on a project in Albany, and that is currently being filled up. But one of the things that shocked and depressed me is that the facility is 82 beds, with 20 memory care units, and the memory care unit was the first one to fill up.”
In a separate interview to the Siuslaw News, McGlade, who did not attend the planning meeting, expanded on the idea, stated there would also be an apartment building.
“We’re looking at an age-restricted 55 and older. That would be considered independent living,” he said. “Those would be people who don’t require much help with day to day activities, but they can participate in amenities from assisted living. And we’re also debating having a home health component as well, where people in the community can come.”
There will also be 28 cottages that will act as transitional housing.
“Those are for people who wish to live in close proximity to an assisted living, but have more independence,” McGlade said. “They may be someone who wants to be linked in technologically with the monitoring systems, they might want to take meals from assisted living and take part of social programs, but they still can live somewhat independently.”
Aside from housing, there will also be extensive commercial properties available.
“Those could range from a doctor office to an accounting office,” Cavaness said. “Lower intensity types of uses.”
He said that he already knew of an urgent care facility that had expressed interest in the facility.
He added a description for possible retail shops.
“These are going to be smaller, owner-operated shops,” he explained. “They are not going to be something that’s going to be owned by large national corporations. Our hope would be that this would be something that would foster and increase economic development from within the community itself.”
As Cannery Station’s first phase is completed, more specific planning on the remaining phases will begin, with eight in total. The exact order of the phases is unknown, as the organizers will be looking for investors and ideas about the remaining pieces.
“In order to build phase one, there has to be a component of utilities and water that will be required for the whole development,” McGlade explained. “If anything, it prepares the rest of this to more easily be developed, with less chance of running into roadblocks. When you have something operating and you have part of it built, it tends to accelerate the other pieces. They do act in a synergistic fashion where the first one is the hardest to get built. Once that is put in place, it’s much easier.”
Cavaness explained how it is a benefit to have leeway with the time frame.
“What I ask for is flexibility, so that if there’s a particular tenant who comes in with a need for particular square footage, we can provide them with an 8,000-square-foot building. If somebody says, ‘I just want to come in here with a 25-square-foot area,’ I can provide that as well. All we’re asking for is flexibility,” he said.
Beyond commerce, the finished project also plans to be environmentally pleasing.
“From a landscaping standpoint, 30 percent of the developable area is going to be landscaped,” Cavaness told the commission. “Approximately 45,000 square feet of that area will be dedicated to a combination of passive and active recreational uses, which is 39 percent of the open space. Code requires 25. We are almost twice as much as what the code requires.”
He also stated that there would be a heavy use of native plants in the area.
“We don’t want to bring out other items that we have to be constantly replacing that have increased water needs. We will be making every effort the use native landscaping materials to the greatest extent practical,” he said. “This will be a very beautiful place that will only enhance the area.”
The Planning Commission asked Cavanass many clarifying questions, including when the project could break ground.
“I would like to start site improvements as quickly as possible,” Cavaness answered. “If I can start before Thanksgiving, I will be very happy. I would like to start vertical construction in February.”
The commission also compared Cannery Station to existing developments and their homeowner association (HOA) requirements for storage, as well as questions on clearcutting.
“We have obtained a clearing permit for a portion of the property (phase one),” Cavaness said. “Anything up to the north will remain in its current vegetative condition until a development plan is proposed. With that said, an access road will be constructed off of Munsel Lake.”
According to the current plan, the transitional housing portion said that two-story residential housing would be part of the design.
The commission suggested that most transitional residents would be adverse to stairs.
“In all of the best worlds, those would be single-story homes,” Cavaness said. “However, given the available depth that we have, and the intent to have a one-car garage, it’s going to be difficult to get footage on the main floor on those buildings. It will be easier across the street, but on those structures, it will probably be two stories. I’m guessing one bedroom with one window.”
Cavaness later told the Siuslaw News was that this was due to some uneven elevation in certain areas. While he will build single stories when he can, some homes will not be able to fit on a slope without two stories.
“I’m very concerned when they come in and build small townhouses,” one audience member said. “We don’t have two stories [in Florentine Estates] because our residents can’t climb stairs very well. So if this is supposed to be transitional, no transitional homes can be two stories. It’s just a bad idea.”
Cavaness told the news that while it is a financial risk, there are people in transitional homes that do prefer a second story.
One member of the public, who stated he had heard the same presentation in 2008, had choice words for the project.
“We know that the world is changing, that Florence is changing, and that this property will be developed,” he said. “The mission of the commission is that it’s done in a reasonable way. Yeah, we need housing, but we don’t need it all on this one piece of property.
“When we heard this presentation before, we were told there would be one-story houses. Now there will be two-story. … It’s going to affect a lot of people.”
There could have been more comments, but the June 12 meeting had run long. Public comments began almost three hours into the night, and most of the audience had left by then.
Nothing was decided by the commission that night, as members held off a final vote until the next public meeting on Tuesday, June 26, also at the Florence Events Center.
This will allow the public to continue to voice their views on the project.
For those who did stay around, they would have noticed a pattern of intense questions about three major topics: A wall, flooding and traffic.
And all of these were major concerns for Florentine Estates, the 55+ community that rests just east of the proposed Cannery Station.
Florentine Estates General Manager Jason Nelson has been working closely with Cannery Station and Florentine residents, including an estate committee that works to preserve the estate’s interests in the matter, to present the community’s concerns about the development.
“Florentine’s stance isn’t against the project,” Nelson said.
The people he has worked with are generally supportive of the development; there are just a few concerns that have come up that residents would like addressed.
The first regards the property line between Florentine Estates and Cannery, and the barrier that should be used to help separate it. Much of the conversation revolves around 35 feet.
Taken from the property line, Florentine Estates has a 40-foot setback from the estate’s property line to a home’s property line. On the Cannery Station side, there is supposed to be a 35-foot setback.
Adding in the distance from the home line and the side of a house, there’s around 80 feet separating two homes, wall to wall.
However, Cannery is asking for an exception to its 35 feet to put in an eight-foot deck. This would encroach six feet into setback, cutting the length to 29 feet, according to Nelson. Florentine fears that even just a few feet could make any noisy neighbors that much more noticeable.
To be fair, many neighborhoods have setbacks as low as 10 feet, but residents of Florentine came specifically for peace and quiet, Nelson said. When other phases do take place, and the age restrictions will be lifted, younger homeowners may cause loud distractions.
Even though the Cannery lot is covered with trees right now, some local residents claimed they can still hear Highway 101. A closer, and potentially louder, family would be amplified, they said.
And those noises would be small to the sound of the construction that could take years to finish.
Nelson said there are two barriers that have been presented to help with the noise.
The first is the vegetation the currently exists. On both sides of the property line, a tall mass of thick plants and trees can block a considerable amount of noise.
While Florentine does have its own thicket, the new property would limit its choices in the future as to what they could do with the property. And there’s no guarantee that all the vegetation on Cannery’s side will be able to remain as well, though the company will try to preserve existing native vegetation.
To create a permanent sound barrier, Florentine would like a wall.
Nelson stated that a previous proposal had suggested a solid wall be built, but current plans call for an eight-foot tall cedar fence.
Not only does Nelson fear that will not create a strong enough sound barrier, it will also create a security risk.
Nelson gave an example of a child breaking through a fence to get a ball thrown on the other side. But childish hijinks really aren’t Florentine’s concern.
“In their plan, they say walking and paths and trails will be next to the wall, and that path will be open to the residents, the visitors, the shoppers and employers,” Nelson said. “That to me is everybody. They say it’s private, but it’s not completely restricted use.”
Neighborhood kids would be one thing, but a more open population could create more chances of problems. While simply having a fence next a walkway is no clear invitation to crime, Florentine Estates population can be particularly nervous.
“It’s a vulnerable population and a lot of them feel vulnerable,” Nelson said. “It just scares them to think that living in a gated area, where not even a bear is coming through the bushes, would potentially be accessible to anybody.”
And a wall would also help protect against any financial burdens the company may face.
“God forbid we have another economic upheaval and they get halfway into it and the bottom falls out, and they have to leave it again for another 10 years,” Nelson said. “We want security there for the future. If they go away, who’s going to maintain that fence? If you don’t have the money to do your development, I can’t call you if a tree falls down on a wooden fence.”
Nelson sees another advantage to a wall, and that’s blocking water flow from the Cannery.
Unlike the wall, the fear here is concrete.
As of now, the area in which Cannery Station will sit is filled with lush, thick vegetation. However, there are also swamplands in the area, and it can become thick with rain.
“There are places I can’t walk into with boots,” Nelson said.
Because of that, Florentine residents attribute the water to helping create floods.
“We’ve had two feet of water in Florentine Estates,” one resident said while raising her concerns at the meeting. “People were floating their little dinghies and fishing boats.”
Florentine fears that once that vegetation is gutted and streets are paved, the flooding could get worse.
“You add a whole bunch of asphalt, the water has to go somewhere.”
And somewhere, Nelson fears, is Florentine Estates.
Cannery’s plan is to have three different rain basis throughout the facility which will retain water, along with culvert systems that will drain the water into the city storm system.
“At full development 90 percent of the water that is currently coming down from this site will be redirected west, and it will go out to the city storm system in Munsel Lake Road, or straight out to the right of way,” Cavaness said. “From a practical standpoint, any drop of water that lands next to Florentine will go out to Highway 101. … There will be less water flowing in this site from a storm than what presently comes off from the property.”
“I’m not disclaiming what he said,” Nelson said. Nelson brought up Cannery’s plans to use six-inch curbs to redirect water.
“A six-inch curb is actually a very good answer, and it’s what we would like to see,” Nelson said.
However, looking at the plans, Nelson feels that there may have been some areas missed the could use better fortification, including more catch basins.
Nelson gave another example, saying, “They talk about using street level sidewalks. We just want to know that they have a six inch back.”
It’s not that Florentine residents believe that Cannery is skimping on storm water containment, they just want to have assurances that all contingencies have been covered.
“To be honest, I think for the most part they’re addressing our concerns, and a lot of what is not addressed will be picked up by the city and ODOT,” Nelson said. “I can’t speak for the board, but I wouldn’t support a recommendation of boycotting their project because we don’t get variances. We’re not that petty. It’s not about stopping them, but just doing what’s best for our community. We need to be on the record that we have concerns about it.”
I have been trying to have conversations with Florentine Estates,” Cavaness told the commission. “We are sympathetic and understand the concerns.”
But while walls and storm drains may be Florentine specific concerns, there are larger fears that can affect the entire city.
One speaker said that traffic was “going to be a nightmare” on Highway 101, both during construction and once Cannery Station begins occupation.
“The problem with traffic is the people coming up and down 101. That’s a dangerous intersection and you’re going to get people killed there,” he said.
Planning Commission Vice Chairperson Sandi Young said, “I’m still talking about traffic,” when asked if she had further questions in the Tuesday meeting.
The issues regarding traffic are complex, but important. At the heart of the issue is whether or not Cannery will create more traffic in the Munsel area, a place already known locally to have difficulties during the summer. This is the same area as the grocery store Fred Meyer, where it is known to be difficult to turn north onto Highway 101.
Munsel Lake has the same problem.
“Everybody at Florentine shops at Fred Meyer, but everybody takes 35th Street because they’re afraid to go on Munsel,” Nelson said. “And they do the same thing coming back because they’re afraid to get out of Fred Meyer. It should be known that they do that because they’re trying to stay safe.”
Cannery will present another road onto the highway, as a new road currently referred to as 47th Street will become one of the main thoroughfares outside the complex. The other exit point will come out on Munsel Lake Road.
“You have an awful lot of traffic, and it’s not going to be pretty,” Young said at the meeting. “I’m not a traffic engineer, but at this point I wish I was. I would like to look carefully at your numbers because I don’t believe it’s going to work very well. You have too many driveways and too much traffic.”
At that point, the audience cheered and clapped.
Originally, there was a traffic light planned for the intersection.
“On the last approval in 2008, they needed a right-hand turn lane, an additional turn lane on Munsel Lake Road and also a light,” FarleyCampbell told the Siuslaw News.
But recent estimates have shown that traffic does not yet warrant a stoplight, though turn lanes are being looked at.
“We are not yet to the point in full development to trigger a light at the location,” said Kelly Sandow of Sandow Engineering, who worked on a traffic analysis for Cannery Station. “That said, as the project is developed, if something does change seven years from now and there is additional development [in the area], we can revisit it. But keep in mind, this is for the entire 10-year project, not just for phase one. All of the proposed access points are expected to be safe.”
But what happened between 2008 and now that would have reduced traffic?
“When ODOT was talking about putting in a light back in 2008, there was significant traffic flows back then,” Sandow explained. “We expected traffic flows to grow over the years, but what happened was we had a recession, and traffic counts dropped all over the states. The math changed, and what changed was the recession we had.”
Sandow did take a traffic count, but that was in February.
“We didn’t have any choice but to take traffic counts then,” Sandow recalled. “So we worked with ODOT who did traffic recordings north of Munsel Lake that looked at 24-hour a day traffic. We looked at what happens in July and August. February is 30 percent lower traffic. So we took our traffic numbers and increased them by 30 percent to match that number. That’s what our analysis is based on.”
But the idea that traffic has decreased since 2008 didn’t sit well with the commission. The 30 percent increase didn’t seem correct. ODOT had also written a letter asking the Cannery to re-analyze some of the assumptions made in Sandow’s report.
“We’re discussing that,” Sandow said. “The traffic recorder was located quite a bit north of city limits. That flow doesn’t consider urban traffic. But in our area, there’s a baseline. You have a lot of homes in the area, Driftwood Shores and Fred Meyer. So there’s minor difference. If ODOT says we have to change the number, we have to change the number. We don’t think a new analysis will change the numbers.”
It was also noted that this analysis was one-and-done. Sandow expects to be continually analyzing traffic whenever a new subdivision is put forth.
It’s important to get these numbers right as soon as possible. If construction is completed and it’s discovered that traffic is indeed too heavy, it could take months for a light to be actually approved and installed. During that time, drivers could be put in danger.
This is not to say that the intersections will be dangerous without a stoplight. The numbers could be correct.
“Does the traffic model that you use do visuals?” Young asked Sandow at the meeting. “Is there a way to run a model to show all the interaction at peak, so we can all see?”
Young suggested that the issue be revisited during the June 26 meeting, with Sandow brining visual representations of traffic flow.
Sandow stated that she could, and would also be making revisions to the plan.
The concerns regarding the traffic light underlies another concern. While most of those who spoke about Cannery believed the project was good for Florence, there were fears of growing pains.
Cannery Station will be a big job creator, according to McGlade.
“If you look at a typical assisted living building and memory care, there are a lot of jobs that are created, and if you add in a home healthcare component to that, you would be looking at a very significant job creation on a day to day basis,” he said.
McGlade stated that the industry itself has seen increases in income levels, particularly in the last two years. The jobs would be “considerably above minimum wage.” And there’s opportunity for those without a college education to train, gain skills and be allowed upward mobility.
These would be careers, with year-round schedules, a possible relief for many from the boom and bust job market of a seasonal vacation town.
“I’m hopeful that people will find meaningful employment that would allow them to live in an apartment building in Cannery,” he said.
This is not considering the employment opportunities that would come with the many shops, restaurants and businesses that would populate Cannery.
And McGlade stated that all of these job opportunities are always best when filled by local residents.
But a bellwether of growing pains lies in the construction industry.
“We don’t have a lot of commercial contractors here,” FarleyCampbell told the Siuslaw News. “It’s not a lack of workers, but a lack of credentials to do the work. And the right kind of insurance and certification.”
And the contractors who are in town have been busy with other projects.
“There have been people who have done housing analysis, and they’ve come back and said, ‘I can’t get anyone in here to build,’” FarleyCampbell said. “It’s just expensive because you have to import workers.”
While McGlade said they would try to hire locals first, it’s a probability that he would have to hire outside. And when this happens, the housing problem continues.
A recent housing needs analysis by the City of Florence found that more than 500 affordable housing units are needed in the area. It’s possible that construction workers could not easily come, rent a home and set up a family for a year.
FarleyCampbell stated that several times, companies have rented out hotels for an entire summer, just to house workers.
After Cannery Station’s phase one is fully completed, there will be multiple other job opportunities. It is hard to predict where those employees come from, and McGlade hopes that they will come from the community. But it’s possible a portion of them won’t.
And the residents themselves may not be from Florence.
“I do think you’re going to see an influx of people from California and other cities,” McGlade said. “It should be no surprise. I would bet that some of the residents would be local, but others would be moving into the area.”
Florence could continue to see a population growth without the additional needed housing.
The city has been moving quickly on this front.
The most ambitious plan is actually a code change that went into effect this week. The city now allows Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). In this case, property owners who have an existing primary detached single-family dwelling can create an additional unit on their property. These homes can be either built from the ground up, or prefab homes shipped in from out of town.
The regulations have been loosened on these homes to encourage and expedite construction. These homes could be used as rentals, or they could be used for family members who want to live closer with their loved ones.
“That should create the opportunity for additional housing,” FarleyCampbell said. “As long as people make an investment in their property, I think there’s an opportunity. I don’t think it will fulfill all the needs that we have, but it would free up other housing in the areas for other family types.”
So while the immediate future may cause some turbulence, the end of the tunnel may be in sight. Projects like Cannery Station and the downtown revitalization may bring about worries of more residents, more traffic and more noise, the “City in Motion” is showing signs of traction.
“Development creates more development,” FarleyCampbell said. “One type of business will bring in another type of business for a lot of these different firms when they come in.”
Hopefully it will create opportunities that have been lagging up north to develop out and create a stronger economic system for Florence and more stability in jobs and economically.
“It’s better for Florence in a lot of ways,” FarleyCampbell said.