June 30, 2018 — At the June 26 meeting of the City of Florence Planning Commission, the preliminary planned unit development (PUD) of Cannery Station was approved by the commission with a six-to-one vote, with Commissioner Sandra Young voicing the sole dissent.
Cannery Station is a mixed-use development project, holding a mixture of commercial, residential and different densities. The project will be completed in eight phases over a 10-year period.
Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of the committee’s June 12 meeting, where the project was initially discussed in front of the commission and the public.
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 in the coming years.
At the meeting, multiple concerns were addressed by Cannery representatives, including age restrictions, traffic concerns and how the project would affect the quality of life for Florentine Estates, which sits adjacent to the property.
One of the major concerns that the public had about Cannery Station was its focus on senior housing. This has created some contention as there is a shortage of affordable housing for young, working-age families in the Florence area.
The overall scope of Cannery Station is to create a multigenerational community as the project is built out in multiple phases.
“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,” Chuck McGlade, one of the project leaders and founders of Cannery Station, said during the June 12 meeting.
However, the first phase of the project was to be primarily centered around senior living, including transitional housing, an assisted living facility and an independent living facility.
In the initial planning meeting, Commissioner Michael Titmus asked Bryan Cavaness, one of the project managers for Cannery, about the age restriction.
“We’ve recently done a new housing needs analysis,” he said, referring to an analysis that showed a deficit of 500 affordable housing units in the area. “Would you be willing to accept all ages?”
“I had this conversation with one of the homeowners,” Cavaness responded. “Practically speaking, you don’t have the authority to say that this should be for a particular age group. … The underlying desire here is to try and provide an environment similar to what we have in Florentine Estates.”
But at the time, Cavaness was unaware of the housing needs facing Florence, he told the Siuslaw News.
Since the first public meeting, Cavaness and McGlade re-evaluated the population of phase one.
“As I recalled, Mr. Titmus questioned whether or not the owners would be amenable to provide other types of housing to assist you in meeting some of your housing goals,” Cavaness said. “Specifically, you inquired if a second apartment building could be set up, so it’s not age restricted.
“Last week, Dr. McGlade did express interest in that second building not being age restricted so it would provide increased housing opportunities. We would be interested in speaking with staff further in how we might be able to help you meet Florence’s housing goals.”
Cavaness also stated Cannery planners had been approached by Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing within Cannery as well.
By opening up an apartment complex to all ages, this could potentially fulfill McGlade’s overall vision for those working at the shops and assisted living facilities within Cannery.
“I’m hopeful that people will find meaningful employment that would allow them to live in an apartment building in Cannery,” McGlade said.
Another concern facing Florence residents is the effect the project will have on traffic in the area, with perceived heavy traffic coming from Fred Meyer, Munsel Lake Road and general use from Highway 101.
The project was initially proposed in 2008 but was placed on hold due to the recession. During that proposal, a traffic impact analysis concluded that there would be need for a traffic light at the intersection. But now, officials said the level of expected traffic does not forecast a need for a light.
“With regard to the prior determination, that was based on different traffic counts,” Cavaness said. “And it was also based on several other developments that were approved north of Munsel Lake Road. Those projects were in the background and thought to already exist. Since that time, not only did traffic flows drop considerably during the economic downturn, but all of those projects north of the road no longer exist.”
Getting an accurate projection is vital because the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) bases its recommendations for a traffic light on that information.
“With traffic signals, you have to meet ODOT requirements,” Kelly Sandow of Sandow Engineering said. “And the levels of traffic don’t meet those requirements. ODOT wouldn’t allow it, currently.”
Sandow, who worked on a traffic analysis for Cannery, based her predictions on a traffic count taken in February of this year, which is typically a slow period in the area.
“The traffic report is disingenuous,” one member of the public said. “A turtle with arthritis could cross Highway 101 in February.”
To take into account the uptick of summer traffic, Sandow increased her February count by 30 percent, which was the expected increase of traffic during the summer months.
“The ODOT number they were referencing was from a traffic recorder they had north of Heceta Beach,” Sandow said. “That’s a much more rural location than our location. The traffic on Highway 101 is heavily influenced by the traffic at Fred Meyer, which is still used all year round. And further north, when you’re away from the traffic flowing on Munsel Lake, the traffic going into Heceta Beach Road and traffic at Fred Meyer, the traffic spike is going to be bigger. But in our area, you’re still going to have a spike, but it’s going to be a little bit lower.”
In a letter by ODOT regarding Sandow’s traffic count, it was suggested that the analysis was too low.
“One of ODOT’s comments was that we needed to go a little bit higher than that,” Sandow said. “So, we’re still working on that.”
However, some Planning Commission members were still not convinced with the analysis.
“I’m still not comfortable with the traffic information the applicant has submitted,” Young said. “I’m concerned that if we approve this preliminary PUD, and then it shows that the traffic doesn’t work, then what does that do? Are we putting ourselves in a box?”
But despite the concerns, there was no hard evidence presented to the commission that would negate Sandow’s study.
“The standard of review is substantial evidence,” Cavaness said. “Any rebuttal, or opposition to that, would necessarily have to come from another Oregon registered professional engineer with transportation expertise. In the absence of any additional information on the record, the Planning Commission should look to the evidence the applicant has submitted. I would suggest that there is no substantial evidence to the contrary in regard to any statements in Ms. Sandow’s statements.”
While there are still questions regarding traffic now, the preliminary PUD is not the final say on the matter. There is still time before the final plans are brought to the commission to review traffic effects, and whenever another phase is introduced, more traffic analyses will be done.
While some city-wide concerns addressed at the meeting, specific concerns regarding privacy, noise and flooding were brought up by Florentine Estates, which is located directly east of the proposed Cannery project.
The first concern representatives from Florentine raised involved decks attached to homes in the new complex.
“What is required is a 35-foot setback adjacent to the residential district,” City of Florence Planning Director Wendy Farley Campbell said. “The applicant is requesting a six-foot exception to that 35-foot setback for the purpose of this deck.”
Florentine residents were concerned that a shortened length could create less of a buffer for noise.
“I’ve been thinking about this one a long time,” Commissioner John Murphy said. “I’m probably not going to be very popular, but even with that six-foot encroachment, the closest Florentine resident and the closest Cannery Station resident is still 79 feet. And that’s better distance than you’ll get in any subdivision in Florence, as far as having your closest neighbor.”
Commissioner Michael Titmus agreed, saying, “We’re talking about six feet. The noise is going to be the same. Hopefully that will be blocked by the vegetation and the fence. I don’t see what six feet matters. The same amount of sound is going to come through.”
The six-foot exception was approved by the commission.
Some residents objected to Cannery’s use of exceptions to city code.
“The commission and this staff has worked hard to come up with codes and regulations to what the city requires,” one Florentine resident said. “We’re asking for a whole lot of [exceptions] here, and since this is a sensitive issue regarding the Florentine boundary, we should follow the established rules. Everybody else in the town has to do it.”
But as FarleyCampbell pointed out, exceptions for large projects like Cannery are permissible. Throughout the evening, other city code exceptions were granted, including driveway lengths on the property.
“The applicant is proposing a PUD, which offers the opportunity for an application to come up with some coordinated development of a big chunk of land,” she said. “It’s not a small, individual site we’re looking at. That’s the purpose of the PUD. Through that opportunity, the intent is to encourage some innovative uses of the land and also create some efficiencies with public facilities. PUDs have the opportunity for flexible applications of zoning regulations. So, the applicant, by asking for the exceptions, is not doing anything you wouldn’t see in any PUD application.”
While Florentine Estates representatives had hoped that the six feet would reduce sound, they also put their hopes in a brick or concrete wall between the two properties to create an additional sound barrier.
“They are requesting an eight-foot fence when a six-foot fence is required, so the buffering criteria exceeds the requirement,” FarleyCampell said. “It should be a solid wood or brick wall. The applicant is requesting an eight-foot solid fence. The staff believe this fulfills the criteria.”
Florentine was aware that code only required a fence; however, in a previous proposal years ago, a brick-like structure was presented. Estate representatives wanted a continuation of that proposal.
But since Cannery’s wood fence fell within city code, there was no recourse for Florentine to follow.
It should be noted that cedar fences can have some considerable bulk to them for blocking noise, depending on how they are constructed. Florentine residents were concerned that individuals could easily break the fences and come through, but that scenario would be contingent upon a rather weak fence.
As the plans for the fence become more finalized, details on how it will be constructed can be reviewed.
For blocking sound, there were also still be vegetation along the border, either by leaving what is already there or replanting native vegetation.
Cavaness stated Cannery Station would attempt to keep a vegetative buffer to the best of its organizers’ abilities.
Another hope for a brick wall was that it would reduce the chance of flooding from Cannery Station.
Currently, Florentine residents contend a significant amount of water flows from the present vacant lot, creating flooding in the estate.
“I understand and appreciate all of the comments,” Cavaness said. “Every drop of rain water that lands on impervious surface, which would include roofs, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and public streets is required to be directed into a storm water facility on the property. The storm water facilities on the south side of the property will drain towards the west and they will go into the city system that is on Highway 101. The storm water to the north will go proceed west until it hits the city system again. At the end of the day, 90 percent of the rain will go out to Munsel Lake Road or out to the west.”
FarleyCampbell pointed out that finalized plans for storm water are still in development. Final plans will take place in a separate process, where Cannery will submit drawings to show that storm water is properly channeled to city drains.
“These aren’t private facilities, they’re public facilities,” she said. “Obviously, the city doesn’t want to take a system that doesn’t work for the city and cause taxpayers extra money. We encourage people who are still concerned with that to tune in, come down, take a look at those materials and make sure we do it right.”
These questions also led to concerns by residents regarding stress put on city utilities, including city, water and sewage.
“We have plenty of capacity for whatever Cannery can throw at it,” FarleyCampbell said.
While the public may have remaining questions about the upcoming Cannery Station and its 10-year timeline, the Planning Commission ultimately approved the project. Future stages, including the projected eight-phase roll out, will require additional permits.