City gives reasons for Shoppes extension

       The Shoppes at Bear Creek project, which has been dormant for nearly a year, is showing signs of life again.

Work was getting started this week on a sanitary sewer preceding installation of gas pumps and underground tanks in front of the 7-Eleven in the Shoppes at Bear Creek commercial center at Eighth Street and Highway 24. The pumps, which will be under a canopy, will go in the area around the middle of the photo.
Westside Pioneer photo

       According to Mike Schultz of City Land Use Review, a new owner has picked up through a foreclosure action the 2.4-acre commercial property at the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Highway 24.
       Once the site of a stand-alone restaurant, the building was extensively remodeled two years ago into a 10,000-square-foot commercial center, attracting as tenants 7- Eleven and Boriello Brothers Pizza. A set of gas pumps was approved for the 7-Eleven last year, with construction related to that work starting this week.
       At issue for the nearby West Bluff neighborhood is a development application to construct a second, similar-sized building on the site, along with a possible access from Seventh Street. Residents are concerned about commercial traffic through their neighborhood.
       Until this month, the neighbors had thought that the proposal had died, according to an article by Sean Chambers, a West Bluff resident and member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), in the current OWN newsletter, the Westside Story. City code allows Land Use Review staff to request developers to withdraw an application if they haven't responded to a staff review letter within 180 days. And, in the case of Shoppes at Bear Creek, 14 months had gone by for LandCo (which had owned the property under the name of Shoppes LLC).
       “The time frame was extended far beyond normal without notice to the neighborhood,” Chambers charges in an e-mail to Land Use in March. “In some recent e-mails you have referred to economic conditions as having some influence, but I am not aware of any new policy that factors economic conditions into the equations on DPs [development plans]… My patience is wearing thin as we continue to go around in circles on this project and the DP that should have been noticed to expire in October 2009.”
       Dick Anderwald, Land Use manager, explained in a recent e-mail to Chambers that his staff had talked with development representatives as recently as last June, and when the property went into foreclosure shortly thereafter, he decided to extend the 180-day limit to give the company a chance to work out its issues. “Extensions do not affect the qualitative review, or the opportunity for neighborhoods to weigh in,” Anderwald wrote. “Consider the alternative: If the application were terminated, the sponsor could simply reapply and pay new fees for the same project. Therefore, paying new fees is punitive but does not change the outcome of the actual development proposal.”
       However, once the property was actually foreclosed on, Schultz said, “I felt that LandCo was no longer invested in the property and thus began the withdrawal procedures.” This took the form of a letter to the new owner, Robert Blaha, giving him 30 days to respond. When Blaha said he needed more time to consider the matter, asking for a fresh 180 days, Schultz wrote him back, saying that “to be fair to the neighborhood I told him I was willing to grant a 90-day extension at this time; if he needs an additional 90 days he will need to demonstrate that he has made strides toward completing the project.”
       The new deadline is May 25, Schultz said.

Westside Pioneer article