Adeveloper has bypassed a potential hurdle in his quest to build an assisted living center on E. Main Street over the objections of neighbors.
Medford planners recently determined Alex Jauregui's proposal to build a 57,000-square-foot building at 825 East Main Street doesn't require approval from the Site Plan and Architectural Commission.
As a result, Jauregui can apply for building permits for the proposed three-story building, which abuts the historic Geneva-Minnesota Historic District.
Neighbors on Geneva Street and Minnesota Avenue, which include 34 homes built in the early 20th century, have criticized the proposed center's size — it would exceed 35 feet in height, looming over their neighborhood.
Portland attorney Greg Hathaway, who represents Jauregui, informed the city on Feb. 14 that the assisted living center will actually generate fewer vehicle trips a day compared with its existing use as office buildings.
Medford code exempts a new building from review by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission if it does not generate more than 10 additional vehicle trips and the project is not located in a historic district.
The existing buildings sit just outside the historic district and generate 350 vehicle trips a day on average. The assisted living facility would generate 227 daily trips — 123 fewer — according to calculations made by Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering LLC of Medford.
Jauregui's development team also submitted a new drawing that enlarged a third-story walkway that would connect the two proposed buildings. Because the enclosed bridge would contain not only a walkway, but also a dining area and a veranda, the two buildings would be considered a single building by the city.
The walkway between the two buildings allows for vehicle passage beneath it to reach a parking area in the back.
Based on the new information, Jim Huber, Medford's planning director, sent a letter on April 4 informing Hathaway that he was right, and the project doesn't need site plan review.
"We reviewed this very carefully with our legal department and we concurred," Huber said.
Huber's decision could be appealed to the City Council within 14 days after the letter was mailed.
But Huber also told the developer that other code issues will need to be addressed before building permits are issued.
"You still have to comply with the standards of the code," he wrote.
The developer originally proposed incorporating existing building foundations and some exterior walls into the new assisted living center, which would have 67 units, with 20 dedicated for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Instead of remodeling an existing building, the developer has opted for completely new construction. That change also helped avoid review by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission, based on Medford code.
The Medford Planning Department previously criticized the project because it would tower over the surrounding neighborhood.
Windows in the assisted living center would look out into the backyards of the neighbors to the west.
City planners recommend that one of the buildings be reduced in size to one story. They suggested the developer consider changing the building design to allow a three-story and possibly four-story building in another area of the property.
According to the latest drawings presented by architect Ronald Grimes of Medford, the building is predominately three stories in height.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.