CITY GIVES FRED MEYER GREEN LIGHT FOR GAS STATION

June 04, 2002 11:00 pm

Fred Meyer sells just about everything. Now it will get the chance to sell retail gasoline as well.

The Brookings Planning Commission Tuesday night unanimously approved a conditional use permit that will allow the retail giant to sell gasoline.

The permit will allow the installation of two underground storage tanks, five pumps and a small kiosk that will be covered by a large canopy. It will be constructed in the northeast corner of the current Fred Meyer parking lot near the corner of Fifth Street and Chetco Avenue.

The facility will cover approximately 5,144 square feet and eliminate between 65 and 75 parking spaces in the lot.

City planner John Bischoff said the proposal is in compliance with the city's Comprehensive Plan. He said the site proposed is of adequate size and shape to accommodate such use. He also said surrounding streets were adequate to handle any additional traffic generated by the station.

The Fred Meyer property is an 8.5-acre parcel with a 106,000-square-foot retail facility. The proposed fueling facility would occupy approximately 30 percent of the parcel.

Chris Ferko, an engineer consultant for Fred Meyer, told the commission that adding gas services "fits in with our one-stop-shopping mission."

He added, "It's a good fit; it uses an underutilized area of our property."

Although the proposed gas station would eliminate parking, Bischoff said the store is only required to have 261 spaces. Even when the station is built, Fred Meyer will still have approximately 450 parking stalls.

Several planning commissioners were concerned about potential traffic problems and crowding in and around the new facility, but Ferko said Fred Meyer would do everything it could to keep customers from suffering any kind of inconveniences. In the end, the commission agreed that Fred Meyer knew what it was doing.

Construction of the facility will require removal of approximately 2,000 cubic yards of soil, mostly making room for the underground tanks. The two tanks will be 16,000 and 20,000 gallons. The smaller tank will be a dual tank with two 8,000-gallon cells for diesel and premium unleaded. The larger tank will hold regular unleaded fuel.

The FM Fuel Stop, the proposed name for the facility, will operate between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. according to the proposal.

According to a study presented in the proposal, the facility will generate 146 peak hour trips per day. Most of those "trips are expected to be from vehicles already at Fred Meyer or driving by on the adjacent streets," according to the report.

The report, compiled by Group Mackenzie Engineering, Inc., of Portland, said linking visits to the new facility to trips to the retail store and including those with visits by vehicles merely passing by, means the net new trips to the station would be reduced to just nine per day.

Based on the permitted use of the property, the traffic study submitted by the applicant, and the project's compliance with Goal 9, Economy of the State, with the Comprehensive Plan, Bischoff recommended approval of the application.

Goal 9 of the plan contains policies to enhance shopping opportunities and diversify the economy of the community.

Before approving the conditional use permit, Commissioner Tom Davis asked Fred Meyer representatives if they decided to build the station because of the long-standing complaints of residents about the high gas prices in the area.

James Coombes, of Fred Meyer's real estate entitlements division, said that wasn't really a deciding factor.

The company, he said, did a marketing study and determined there was enough demand to make the station profitable, or "to at least break even."

Coombes added, "We don't necessarily want to be the lowest in the state when it comes to gas prices, but we do want to sell it to our customers at a fair price."

Davis asked Coombes if Fred Meyer was aware of the "community's current opinion about gas prices in the area.

"If you come in five cents lower than the other (gas stations), all your traffic studies will go out the window," Davis said.

He added, "Considering the opinions of this community, you better be prepared to be inundated."

Coombes' response was that Fred Meyer believed that if its prices were lower, the marketplace would respond with other gas stations lowering their prices.

When the commission approved Fred Meyer's conditional use permit, they included a condition that the company install planters or dividers at the end of the traffic lanes closest to the gas station.