The Canby Planning Commission approved a massive, 683,000-square-foot e-commerce warehouse and distribution center earlier this year and city officials have confirmed that no appeals were filed against the project, clearing the way for construction in the coming months.
The company behind the largest project in the history of Canby, which will encompass 150,000 square feet more than the Columbia Distributing beverage warehouse and distribution center located further up Mulino Road, has not yet been publicly identified.
But, like Columbia’s facility, which was cleared through the city planning process under the secretive codename “Project Shakespeare,” so too has this project been vetted against building and development standards without regard for the company that will ultimately be operating it.
“Canby South,” as it was dubbed, will be constructed on a 47.5-acre property on land owned by the Weygandt family on Township, Sequoia and Mulino roads in the Canby industrial park. Developers proposed a single, mammoth warehouse building 620 feet wide and 1,102 feet long — more than the length of three football fields.
The plans for Canby South also include a possible future expansion of 107,000 more square feet.
The project’s team includes developer Trammell Crow Company and architects VMLK Engineering + Design, who have both handled many projects in the Canby industrial park — including Columbia Distributing.
The Canby Planning Commission approved the project at a meeting in late June, following lengthy discussion that spanned more than two hours.
While a number of board members expressed concerns about the building’s size and the impact it would have on traffic and the larger community, only Vice Chair Larry Boatright and Commissioner Jennifer Trundy emerged as outspoken opponents.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of conditions and a lot of variance in this,” Trundy said. “I don’t have a huge problem with it being a few feet taller [than city standards] but I think the use of the land is like they’re trying to, you know, squeeze a stepsister’s foot into Cinderella’s slipper.”
To explain his feelings of just how unsettling these types of colossal developments can be, Boatright recalled driving through central California one night and seeing a large, bright spot on the horizon.
“We were wondering what the great, big glow was in the sky,” he said. “At first, we thought it was a stadium. Then, as we got closer, we thought maybe it was a prison. There was so much light there that you couldn’t see the stars in the sky at all in Patterson, Calif. And that was an Amazon warehouse.”
Virtually all commissioners, even those who voted in favor, expressed concerns about the thousands of large trucks and other vehicles the project would bring into the city on a daily basis — particularly on the rural surrounding roads that were designed to handle little more than light residential and farm traffic.
The project’s traffic engineer estimated the project, at its initial buildout, would generate approximately 1,432 new vehicle trips per day, with about 11% of those (157 trips) being large trucks. The vast majority of the traffic would be employees coming and going in personal vehicles, developers said.
The applicant had agreed to pay $547,200 toward the planned north industrial park outlet road at Walnut Street in addition to system development charges and other required fees.
Planning staff said this amount “would be proportional to the proposed project’s impacts” on Highway 99E and its intersections, but commissioners weren’t convinced.
“I don’t see how our streets are going to be able to maintain another 100 trips an hour without the Walnut extension and some other road improvements,” said Commissioner James Hieb. “And I don’t see a half a million dollars even making a dent.”
“I don’t think we’re ready for this,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that the company is putting in $547,00 to help with this road congestion, but that’s just a spit in a bucket when it comes to roads. I mean, my house is worth almost that much.”
But developers argued, and most commissioners conceded, that these are the types of projects you are bound to get when you plan a 360-plus-acre industrial park.
“This is what we’re going to put up with to get this growth,” said Commissioner Michael Hutchinson. “It’s an easy decision to make — before you have to stare at a long line of cars not letting you get out for your daily commute. And I understand that, but I’m not sure waiting is the most prudent goal if we’re looking to grow, and it seems like growth is Canby’s goal.”
While Commissioner Jason Padden pointed out that, in the long run, the development could actually pave the way for road improvements that would likely never happen if the property stayed an empty field.
“Unfortunately, for a building like this, it is more of a chicken and an egg situation,” Padden explained. “By allowing a development like this, it brings more tax base into the city, which allows us to put more money toward streets. It is one of those things where, in some ways, I look at it as a necessary evil.”
“We’ve asked for growth,” concluded Chair John Savory. “We’ve built and designed an industrial park for this purpose. So I will be voting in favor of this project.”
Although a number of neighboring residents testified against the project, citing concerns about traffic, light pollution and impacts to existing properties, city staff confirmed this week that no appeals were filed in the designated window, and the decision is now final.
However, the final findings required that any major deviation from the approved speculative design be resubmitted to Canby Planning for further review.
“It is important to note, due to the speculative nature of the design review process, the conditions emphasized anything demonstratively different will be studied thoroughly by staff and brought back before the Planning Commission,” Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel explained in an email.
More information about the project and its timetable is expected in the coming weeks.
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