The Bend City Council is leaning toward a zoning change that would allow Les Schwab Tire Center to move to Third Street in an area of town where it currently isn’t permitted and replace several existing buildings.

The rezoning — which the council is expected to vote on Nov. 6 — is in response to a proposal from the tire company introduced earlier this year to move its store at 105 NE Franklin Ave. to the block between NE Third and Fourth streets.

That block of town is in the Bend Central District, which is zoned to encourage more growth but does not allow for businesses that service vehicles like tire centers. So the tire center asked the city to rezone that block from the district to allow for the move.

At the council’s regular meeting Wednesday, five of the seven-member body supported rezoning the block because they saw Les Schwab moving away from the Franklin Avenue location as an overall benefit to the district.

Representatives for Les Schwab have argued the Third Street site is better suited for serving the central part of town, and that moving would open up 3.4 acres on Franklin Avenue for housing or other mixed-use development that better fits the vision for the district.

“I think long-term this particular proposal in front of us today actually has the opportunity to substantially benefit the development of the BCD,” Mayor Sally Russell said.

Councilors also felt the zone change could help trigger development in a district that has not seen much mixed-use development for housing and businesses since it has been formed.

“Should the focus be on where they want to move to or where they want to move from? Change really could occur on that property on Franklin,” Councilor Bruce Abernethy said. “What we’ve done so far hasn’t triggered what we’re hoping to get.”

But councilors including Gena Goodman-Campbell and Barb Campbell argued there has been too much focus on what could happen by redeveloping the former site and not enough about what is lost by taking a block out of the district.

“There’s been a lot of focus about what could happen, but no thought about what could happen to the property on Third Street,” Goodman-Campbell said.

Dedicating that block of Third Street to auto service takes away the possibility of redeveloping a prominent part of Third Street ­within the vision of the district, which is a mix of housing and businesses.

“We have to think in a visionary way when it comes to Third Street,” she said.

Campbell said she feels the move conflicts with the district’s overall goal to reduce the number of cars in the area.

“Les Schwab wants to keep that central location because it’s one of their top-producing stores and they have stores in the entire Pacific Northwest,” Campbell said. “Just because they are going to be on a smaller footprint does not mean they will be attracting fewer cars to the area, and that I think is the important part.”

Campbell and Goodman-Campbell join a group of neighbors and the land use advocacy group Central Oregon LandWatch that opposed the change because of how it would compromise the integrity and intention of the central district.

In August, the planning commission shot down the proposal over concerns that removing land from the district would set a bad precedent.

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

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