A developer seeking to build a controversial assisted living center on East Main Street was given the green light to proceed Thursday.
The Medford City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of allowing developer Alex Jauregui to construct the 57,000-square-foot building at 825 East Main Street. Neighbors objected to the property because of its size and proximity to a residential area.
The parcel will serve as the replacement for the outdated fire station at 1241 W. Eighth St. Once a new station is built, the Eighth Street station will close.
The department has said the West Eighth Street station is out of date and is not in the best location for response times.
The money for the purchase comes from the Fire Department's current budget. The department still needs to find a way to pay for building a new station, which could be in the form of a bond measure brought before voters. There are no current plans for a bond measure and the cost of a new station is not yet known.
"This is all well down the road," said Councilor Chris Corcoran. "But we do have the land paid for."
Some council members questioned Jauregui's development team submitting a new drawing that enlarged a third-story walkway connecting the two proposed buildings. Because the enclosed bridge would also contain a dining area and veranda, the two buildings would be considered a single building by the city.
The change allowed the project to escape review by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission.
Councilors Bob Strosser and Chris Corcoran disagreed with that interpretation of city code. They argued that the developer simply added a dining area to the walkway to avoid the review.
"It was a maneuver that deprives us as a community of having a say in what kind of buildings we are going to have to look at," Strosser said. "We all live in this community and should have some say-so in this."
Neighbors on nearby Geneva Street and Minnesota Avenue, which include 34 homes built in the early 20th century, also have criticized the proposed center's size because it would reach more than 35 feet in height, placing it well above every other roofline in their neighborhood and providing views into some backyards.
Medford code also exempts a new building from review by the architectural commission if it will not generate more than 10 additional vehicle trips and the project is not in a historic district.
The site sits just outside the historic district and generates 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.
In lieu of remodeling the existing building, the developer chose new construction. The living center would have 67 units, with 20 dedicated for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.