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Cedar Mill News
Volume 3, Issue 10


October 2005

Shell ends negotiations over Cornell station realignment
by Virginia Bruce, editor

One of the basic requirements for a successful Town Center project is a grid of alternate roads that take pressure off the “Main Street.” This is really nonexistent in the Cornell-Saltzman section of Cedar Mill, and the lack of such a grid will cause circulation problems as the area develops.
As part of the solution to this problem, Bales-Findley Property Management proposed a realignment of the Shell station on Cornell that would allow Barnes Road to connect to Dogwood by running along the west side of the grocery store. They even offered to donate some of their property so the station could be realigned. Discussions were initiated with Shell, and with some ups and downs, seemed to be progressing pretty smoothly. Shell and Bales hired architects and worked with County planners through nearly 30 different designs to come up with a plan that seemed to work for everyone (see map below).

This design was agreed upon by Shell, Bales, and Washington County planners before Shell discontinued negotiations

A side benefit to this proposed connection would have been that it would increase traffic on Dogwood to a volume that would justify the County putting in a signal light at the corner of Dogwood and Saltzman. This would make it possible to have a controlled crosswalk to serve the library and greatly add to the viability of pedestrian use of the area. (See article in March 2005 CMN).

The Town Center concept envisions a pedestrian-friendly area that minimizes the need for automobiles. Having a gas station in the middle of a Town Center doesn’t really fit the vision, but it hasn’t been a big issue here because we already have so few gas stations. There was never a serious suggestion to eliminate the station, although it’s been done in other Town Center developments around the country.

The Cornell Road improvement project was proceeding, and because negotiations with Shell hadn’t yet produced a result, the County built the road around the station, creating a variance to the sidewalk width requirements so it wouldn’t encroach on the station. (See photo, right.) If the original drawings had been followed and the sidewalk was built to match the rest of the project it would have cut off access to one side of Shell’s front pump island. The current configuration would appear to pose something of a traffic hazard by putting pedestrians close to traffic.

A signal light was installed at the intersection of Barnes and Cornell presumably to facilitate the eventual connection. Now that light will mainly enable good access into and out of the station, although it will also help traffic turning left from Barnes to Cornell.

Looking east on Cornell - the sidewalk narrows and protrudes into traffic

Suddenly a couple of months ago, negotiations broke down and Shell said they would not consider reorienting the station. Ryan Egge of Bales-Findley Property Management suspects that Shell felt that the pressure was off of them since the County has built around the station, and has refused to consider condemning the Shell property.

He says, “Unfortunately, Shell has no motivation to change their current situation. Washington County has made every effort to work around the Shell site, instead of imposing on Shell what is required in the Town Center Ordinance. For the benefit of the community, Washington County needs to condemn the nonconforming Shell site, and allow for the Town Center to be developed according to the original vision of County Staff and residents and business owners of Cedar Mill.”

Egge, who was on the committee which helped shape the Town Center plans, has indicated that Bales-Findley is willing to assist the County, financially or otherwise, in its efforts to condemn the Shell property . They would then redevelop the station and lease it back to Shell. Egge says, "I think there is good retail synergy between a grocery store and a gas station, even as part of a Town Center."

“The County is willing to do everything it can to facilitate this move,” says Anne Madden, Senior Program Educator in Washington County’s Land Use and Transportation Department. “We can smooth the permitting process. But it’s not likely that we will condemn the property."

Cornell-Barnes construction Project Manager Alex Sander comments, "The Cedar Mill town center plan shows the Barnes extension to Dogwood, and the Dogwood connection to Saltzman. What Bales and the County would like to do is find a way to implement the plan. The connection “might” rather than “would” justify a signal at Dogwood/ Saltzman. A traffic analysis will need to be done to determine if a signal is warranted.'

Dan Brown, Capital Projects Manager for Land Use and Transportation, says, "I estimate that we incurred $75K in additional design costs trying to find alternatives that would allow improved access for both Bales and Shell at the Barnes-Cornell intersection. The County delayed finalizing the design as long as possible trying to provide an opportunity for Shell and Bales to reach some sort of an agreement. The County was clear that, if there was no agreement on the table, we would proceed with a design the met the minimum requirements of the original project scope."

Brown continues, "It needs to be clear to all parties that only conceptual designs of the relocation of Shell and Bales parking lot were provided to the County. Discussions never proceeded as to how the reconfiguration would be financed. Bales was clear that they would dedicate property needed for the street improvements and some additional property for Shell station site. The County was never included in any discussions between Shell and Bales with regard to financing the reconstruction of the station or costs associated with the actual road improvements.

“We have been in that discussion and we have been unsuccessful,” says County Commissioner John Leeper. “Although the original Town Center plans did show a connection between Barnes and Dogwood, I told them there was no timeline and that it could take 20 years to accomplish. We can encourage this but anything in the way of Shell’s expenses to make the move is not in our road projects budget,” Leeper continued. “Dan Brown has calculated that the entire project would cost some $3.8 million, including land acquisition, some level of contamination cleanup, improvements to the road and the light at Dogwood and Saltzman.” He said he was unaware that Bales was willing to help pay for the project.
Shell spokesman Anne Peebles says, "We have been a member of the Cedar Mill Community since the early 1950s when the station was first built. While we are still evaluating the situation, it is important to note that tearing down and rebuilding the station would be a significant investment. For more than 50 years, we’ve been committed to providing local motorists with high quality fuels at competitive prices, and we continue that commitment every day by serving more than 800 drivers at this location daily. We will continue to evaluate this situation in an effort to better serve our customers and will continue to have discussions as needed with neighboring property management."

At the October 4 CPO #1 meeting, president Bruce Bartlett presented a draft of a letter to Shell which he proposes to finalize and present to the membership for a vote at the November 1 meeting. The letter asks Shell to consider the needs of the community and to be a good corporate citizen by resuming negotiations. The mission of the CPO organizations is to give citizens in unincorporated Washington County a voice in land-use issues. The letter will be available on the CPO #1 website (cedarmill.org/cpo) when it is finalized.

Commissioner Leeper, who had been president of CPO #1 before being appointed to fill a vacancy on the County Commission, cautions the CPO to, “keep out of politics.” He agrees, however, that the line between an interest in land-use issues and “politics” can be a fine one.

In the meantime, Bales plans to create a public driveway that will go around the west end of the grocery store, which it leases to the new owners, and will connect with Dogwood. “At least this will give our customers another way to get in and out of the parking lot,” comments Egge.



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The Cedar Mill News
Published monthly by the Cedar Mill Business Association, Inc.,
P.O. Box 91177
Portland, OR 97291-0177

Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229