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Council OKs gas station

4-1 vote upholds controversial plan by Albertson's store

A gas station planned for an east Medford shopping center got the go-ahead Thursday night from the City Council, despite continued opposition from neighborhood residents.

The council voted 4-1 in favor of upholding an approval of the station by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission.

Medford Councilman Curt Bennett said the station at the Larson Creek Shopping Center at Barnett and North Phoenix roads would provide a new service and keep people from driving across town to get gas.

Most of us don't want urban sprawl, Bennett said. Many of us moved here to get away from urban sprawl.

The Site Plan and Architectural Commission's approval on Aug. 6 had been appealed by neighbors who believe a gas station near the new Albertson's grocery store will increase traffic, cast light into their homes and could be the source of gasoline spills.

Councilman Matt Hart was the only councilman to vote against the approval.

Hart agreed that he liked the idea of the gas station in the area, but said he didn't think the gas station -- and the site it will sit upon -- met city land-use codes.

I don't think we should dance on the head of a pin to make this work, Hart said.

Neighbors had argued that city code requires service stations be built on parcels of at least 22,500 square feet. The proposed site is on a tax lot of 15,000 square feet.

The city attorney and city planners decided that the site and the tax lot are not synonymous. They also argued that use of the station would extend beyond the 15,000 feet of the tax lot.

On Thursday night, station opponent George Eshoo asked the council to look at the size of the lot.

I agree that it may be nice for the city to have a service station in this area, Eshoo said. But you should not abdicate your responsibility to uphold the current land-use laws.

John Hassen -- a Medford lawyer representing Albertson's and the owners of the land, Keywest Properties Inc. -- said that his clients would be willing to pay for a lot-line adjustment to make the size of the tax lot 22,500 feet.

Councilman Skip Knight, who left the meeting before the vote, said that he believed the station would cut down on vehicle-miles traveled in the city.

I think it's in the best interest of our community in the long run, Knight said. And I think this neighborhood needs access to the gas.

This is the second time that the contentious issue has been appealed. The project was approved by the commission on March 19 and went to the City Council, but Albertson's and Key West Properties asked that the matter be sent back to the commission for review.