Walgreens clears LUBA hurdle

MONMOUTH -- The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has denied a second challenge to the proposed construction of a Walgreens pharmacy in Monmouth.

MONMOUTH -- The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) has denied a second challenge to the proposed construction of a Walgreens pharmacy in Monmouth.

Groundbreaking on a 14,800 square-foot facility at the corner of Highway 99W and Main Street has stalled since the summer of 2005, when some community members filed an initial petition against a zone change that allowed the project to move forward.

The residents made the second appeal in August, claiming the city ignored key information in its decision and didn't allow them to testify on a critical analysis of the effect of complex on traffic.

The state issued an opinion on Dec. 5 that reaffirms the city's original decision and rejects the newer claims.

"The LUBA brief was very strong in our favor," said Benson Sainsbury, the California-based developer represnting Walgreens. "There's nothing to go back to LUBA for."

Work on the pharmacy could begin in February, he said.

But the matter isn't settled, as petitioners have until the final week of December to take their case before the Oregon Court of Appeals, a LUBA spokeswoman said.

There was not a new claim as of press time this week.

"I can not predict the future activities of the opponents," Sainsbury said. "It is time for the opponents to accept the decision by both the city and LUBA, that the zone change was approved within the bounds of the law and that we have the right to build."

LUBA upheld the commercial zone-change on lots near the proposed site in the first case, but remanded the decision back to Monmouth because officials failed to supply requested documents to a petitioner, Jason Brown of Dallas, before the end of an open record period.

Brown funded an engineering report that said the pharmacy would generate more traffic than originally expected. City Council upheld the rezoning.

Among arguments in the second appeal, opponents said they were not given a chance to give new testimony on Brown's report, and that the city had put no development stipulations on the Walgreens site in the event the pharmacy went out of business.

The petitioners also said the city didn't adequately address an ODOT safety study on the Highway 99W-Highway 51 intersection in the decision-making process and that Sainsbury's traffic study was done when Western Oregon University wasn't in session and didn't reflect the trips generated by the Dutch Bros. Coffee kiosk on the property.

The opponents had no statutory right to offer new evidence in the matter, and that they hadn't established that the data in the developers traffic analysis was erroneous, LUBA said.

Despite having another legal option, Pat Jaffer, one of the petitioners, said she wasn't sure if the group would mount another challenge.

"I don't know what we'll decide to do," she said. "I think we've fought it as much as can ... we'll have to get together and look at it."

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