A lack of data on how much traffic a new travel center at the former Talent Truck Stop would generate has led to denial of an application for site development in a ruling issued Tuesday.

City Hearings Officer Rick Whitlock found the application by Northwest Properties & Investments LLC lacked data to determine whether a transportation impacts study needed to be conducted. An increase of 50 or more vehicle trips per hour at peak times would have triggered the need for a TIS.

A lawyer for the project said the company will do what is needed to address issues so the center can be pursued.

“The project will be customized to whatever is best for the city of Talent,” said Liz Dixon, a Bend lawyer. “We will do it until we get it right.”

Talent’s Planning Commission had approved the firm’s request Sept. 28. But Gary Hall, a trucking and truck stop industry consultant, appealed the ruling. Hall’s attorney had argued at the Nov. 14 hearing that a TIS needed to be conducted for the project.

Fueling for trucks and cars, a 24-hour restaurant, a convenience store and a trucker’s lounge were proposed for the 5.4-acre site at 251 W. Valley View Road. Old structures at the site would be removed. Truck operations have been conducted there since the 1970s although there has been little activity in recent years.

“I am pleased with the hearings officer’s decision and believe he reached the right result,” said Hall. “The proposed truck stop will generate a significant amount of truck and auto traffic, and it is imperative that the developer be required to study traffic impacts so the city can ensure that the developer, and not the citizens or taxpayers of Talent, is responsible to pay for and mitigate those traffic impacts.”

The applicant, city staff and Planning Commission consistently misinterpreted the term “net peak hour trips” by relying on comparisons between existing, permitted land uses and activities on the property and those that would be allowed if the proposal were approved, Whitlock said in his ruling. There was no evidence in the record to establish current traffic levels or how many peak hour trips the application would generate, Whitlock wrote. The site is currently zoned for truck-stop use.

The applicant cited only old truck-stop figures in giving trip generation numbers but did not take into account that other vehicles besides big rigs would be refueling at the center, wrote Whitlock. He also noted that traffic generation due to a significant increase in the size of retail structures at the site and other activities are not addressed.

Because the approval was denied on the first issue raised by Hall’s lawyer, E. Michael Connor, Whitlock did not rule on other arguments.

Connor had also contended that the project relied on a flawed traffic study, failed to address impacts on Interstate 5 Exit 21, didn’t comply with floodway regulations, that driveways exceed allowable maximum widths and plans for site development were improperly deferred for lighting, storm water and landscaping.

Whitlock wrote that concerns raised by neighbors of the location in the Oak Valley subdivision were not germane to the proceedings. Among issues raised by residents were decreased property values, odors, noise, vibrations and impact on privacy.

“I’m really surprised and pleased, actually. I thought it was going to almost be a rubber stamp,” said Dan Davis, who lives in Oak Valley. “When I went to the hearing, I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed quite balanced and unbiased one way or the other.”

Traffic is one of his biggest concerns with the project, Davis said. He worries about the ability of Exit 21 to handle double trailers and 80 to 100 or more trucks per day.

Calls for comment made to developer Bob Krohn were not returned. An appeal of Whitlock’s ruling can be made within 21 days to Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.