A property owner is paying a hefty fee to fight a food-cart pod that she argues would reduce parking for her customers and bring further congestion and traffic to an area near The Box Factory that has drawn complaints.

Bob Libby is proposing a 2,146 square-foot building at 566 SW Mill View Way with indoor seating, a small bar area and accessible restrooms, as well as an open air trellis structure to house three food carts.

Marie Vandaveer owns the Bush Animal Clinic building next door. The appeal is the latest concern about a fast-growing area of town where congestion and parking are problems. Springhill Suites, the Box Factory businesses and Spoken-Moto bring a steady stream of people to the area.

To file the appeal, Vandaveer had to pay a $12,724.66 fee, which she is also fighting. Her fee was higher than the applicant’s payment to have the site reviewed. Although Vandaveer’s fee has since been lowered to $11,723.70 because staff caught a clerical error, it still exceeds the applicant’s fee.

Since her initial filing, Vandaveer said Thursday by email that she has agreed to mediation with the project owner to work on a plan with the city. She would not confirm whether this would affect the appeal, and the public hearing remains scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Vandaveer argues there is not adequate parking for the site. Libby is required to have 23 parking spots based on his design, but only has 13 designated on his property.

A special set of rules and regulations for the neighborhood allows Libby to count spots in other general lots to fulfill the rest of his parking requirement.

Vandaveer also wrote in a letter to the city that the access for the project is “awkward,” adding traffic to an intersection that is congested.

Sara Anselment, the city planner who reviewed the application, said it is common practice for the city to rely on neighborhood rules and regulations that allow different businesses to share common parking spaces.

“The average person can’t tell where one parking lot starts and ends. It’s all one big parking area,” Anselment said. “It’s like if you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s, but you are parked closer (to) Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can’t get kicked out for going to Trader Joe’s.”

Will Van Vactor, who represented Vandaveer in the appeal, argued that in addition to the parking issues, the fees were excessive and deter other people with similar appeals to come forward.

Tasks required to do an appeal would be less work than reviewing Libby’s application, Van Vactor said in the appeal. “This is unreasonable.”

Planning Manager Colin Stephens said fees charged to appellants cover the costs of staff time and a public hearing officer, who charge an average of $200 an hour.

Cities that allow for appeals such as this have to recoup costs from somewhere, Stephens said.

It’s a cost, he admits, that could serve as a deterrent for some who want to appeal a project but can’t afford it.

“It may have that effect,” Stephens said. “But we’re 100% fee supported. Where would we get that money from?”

Erin Doyle, a government relations associate with the League of Oregon Cities, said each city that chooses to provide a local appeal handles the process differently.

Some, like Bend, rely on the appellant to pay. Others use general fund money to help curb the costs.

Changing how appeal fees are paid for has not been discussed seriously during his 13 years with the city, Stephens said.

There is more to consider than encouraging citizen involvement, Stephens said. Making it easy to appeal projects that are permitted uses where they are being built would be a hindrance to development, as well as go against the ethos of the state land use laws.

“Part of the Oregon Land Use system encourages urban areas to be urban,” Stephens said. “If the idea is to urbanize, it’s counterproductive to litigate every permitted use when Oregon land use encourages development to occur.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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