Controversy over construction continues

More than a thousand people are upset with plans to transform a 2.5 acre lot in Medford.

Posted: May 4, 2019 8:54 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Construction plans include a new coffee kiosk, a circle-k store with gas pumps and a car wash.

The lot is located on Springbrook Road and East McAndrews Road, right across from Bonaventure assisted living. In less than a month, more than 1100 people have signed a petition against the construction.

More than a hundred people showed up to speak at the public hearing on Friday. They spoke for nearly two hours, until finally the council decided they needed to move forward on the hearing agenda. No conclusions on whether or not the city will continue with the construction plans were met. The next hearing is scheduled for May 17th.

Matt Small, an Architect for Kistler Small White, said, "With this much attention, this application could be appealed."

There wasn't an empty seats at the public hearing on Friday. Gary Sumrak is one of about forty people who spoke at the meeting and he started the petition against the project.

Sumrak said, "If you're a business person and obviously you have a short duration to do this and collect the signatures and you come up with 1100, why would you as a businessman try to put a business there when nobody wants it?"

Medford's Planning Director, Matt Brinkley, said he understands why people have concerns.

"It's a commercial development in close proximity to a residential neighborhood that's been there for a long time," Brinkley said. 
He said the commission is working to address the concerns, but there is only so much they can do.

"We also have to remember that we have a private property owner who is the developer they have a constitutionally guaranteed rights like everybody else to try to develop the land within the same parameters," Brinkley said. 

Several neighbors told NewsWatch12 they're concerned about things like an increase in traffic and a decrease in their homes' safety.

"Well basically they said that they tried to do their best with the design of their project to minimize the impact of the neighborhood and if you look at the stuff and look at their drawings and all that they all look really well dressed up and it looks like it could be very nice ,but it's not about how nice the building is it's about the impact," Sumrak said. 

Safety and traffic aren't the only concerns neighbors expressed. A red-tailed hawk lives on the lot and is currently nesting on the property. 

Sumrak said, "They can't touch that property until that hawk leaves that nest which probably won't be until probably after july."

According to nearby neighbors, the hawk has nested on the property for the last five years. It's illegal to cut down a tree intentionally when a bird is nesting in it.

Small said, "We have no intent of disturbing that property until after nesting season."

Hawks are federally protected and require special removal. After nesting season, a landowner must get a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to remove the hawk from the property.

"There's even been discussion with the owner of offering a nesting pole on site that the hawk could renest in. I'm sure he would be happy to do that but we don't know that it would be successful at this point in terms of if the hawk would actually renest," Small said. 

This project won't be the last, accoding to Brinkley.

"East Medford was a big part of our urban growth boundary expansion that was approved last year after 10 or more years of work and along with our new transportation system a lot of the growth that medford is planning to accommodate will occur on the east side of Medford," Brinkley explained. 

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