Representatives of Les Schwab Tire Center made a case as to why their flagship store should be able to move to an area of town where they currently aren’t permitted during a Bend City Council meeting Wednesday night.
Les Schwab has proposed moving its store at 105 NE Franklin Ave. to the block between NE Third and Fourth streets, but the idea was rejected last month by the planning commission.
That block of town is in the Bend Central District — an area of town that is zoned to encourage more growth but does not allow for auto-dependent uses like tire centers.
So the retailer is asking the city to change the zoning to remove this block from the district.
The tire retailer argued that the Third Street site is better suited for serving the central part of town, and in turn provides more than 3 acres on Franklin Avenue that could be used for housing or other mixed-use development that better fits the vision for the district.
“Our decision to move our flagship store was not taken lightly,” said Tia Lewis, an attorney representing the tire retailer.
If approved, the Les Schwab center would replace several existing buildings: Enterprise Rent-a-Car, the former Hardy’s Burgers & Ice Cream, Sangie Hair Spa, Bend Truck Toyz, Vintage Moon Antiques and a single-family residence.
But the proposal was met with opposition, including from the planning commission, which feared the tire center could conflict with the residential nature that surrounds it, planning commissioner Suzanne Johannsen told the council Wednesday.
“We overwhelmingly felt it would set a bad precedent to remove a piece from the BCD,” Johannsen said. “We felt it was inconsistent with the central area plan.”
Neighbors and land use advocacy organization Central Oregon LandWatch have also expressed concerns about precedent, as well as issues around traffic, parking and noise that could come from the tire center.
Several developers, business owners and contractors came to speak in support of the zoning change, arguing it was short-sighted to not provide flexibility to businesses looking to make their operations efficient.
“It’s not good policy to force out longstanding businesses,” said Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development of Central Oregon. “I think it’s imperative there are exceptions made, and that those exceptions make sense for what the future is.”
Adam Bledsoe, a local business owner, said those concerned about congestion should consider a tire center generates less traffic than other projects that could be approved in the same area: a six-story building, mixed with residential and business uses.
Proponents also argued that it made sense to move the center away from Franklin Avenue, which is a main connector between east and west Bend and has been envisioned to accommodate more pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Third Street has already been determined to be car-centric.
“The proposal that’s before you today significantly improves compatability,” said developer Greg Blackmore.
The City Council decided to extend the public comment period by a week, and will consider the proposal later this fall.
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