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Home Depot draws opposition

Neighbors tell city planners that the traffic is too heavy now

PHOENIX ' Planning Commission members are recommending a zoning change along North Phoenix Road to pave the way for a Home Depot, despite concerns from the state over a failing intersection at the Fern Valley freeway interchange.

Planning Commission members Monday approved rezoning the 19 acres from farm residential to interchange business for a 103,000-square-foot Home Depot store just north of the interchange.

More than 50 residents, along with developers and Oregon Department of Transportation officials, packed the council chambers Monday night for a four-hour hearing riddled with complaints of rush-hour traffic jams.

Most residents said they were not against Home Depot, which would provide 200 jobs at an average wage of &

36;13.32 an hour plus benefits and some &

36;132,000 annually in taxes, but were against store construction before road improvements.

While the Fern Valley interchange is on the state's Tier — funding list for improvement sometime between 2008 and 2012, ODOT officials said funding is not guaranteed.

— Freddie Martin of Parkway Circle told commission members she was concerned about traffic congestion and safety should emergency vehicles ever have to contend with the interchange.

I'm not against Home Depot, she said. I'm against trying to get to Ray's. I'm against trying to get to the freeway — trying to get anywhere.

It just doesn't seem to be working the way it is right now and that's not even considering there's going be that big (Home Depot) shopping center.

Martin's neighbor, Sherrie Smith, said she conducted her own traffic survey in which she counted 35 cars backed up at the nearby traffic light on a recent afternoon.

My children make a mess of their toys and I require them to clean up one mess before they make another one, she said alluding to what she felt was a lack of commitment from the state to fix the traffic problem.

I can drive from Medford to Phoenix in two-and-a-half minutes, argued Bob Mott, who lives on Mountain View Drive. It takes me 10 minutes to get across that bridge. I'm not against Home Depot. I'm against the current problem.

Gary Hall of the Petro truck stop, located along Fern Valley Road, favored the development. Hall said ODOT was preventing Phoenix from growing due to its waiting and procrastinating on road repairs.

They'll keep finding excuses not to provide transportation, he said.

Without development like this, Phoenix will not grow its tax base.

Hall said that allowing development would require the state to improve roads.

The wheel that squeaks the loudest gets the grease.

City Planner Denis Murray told Planning Commission members that property owner Bob Robertson had complied with necessary criteria for the development and that the city's hands were tied on the issue of interchange improvements.

Speaking on behalf of Robertson, attorney Bill Kabeiseman told commissioners their decision to move forward would encourage the state to get down to brass tacks in fixing roads.

Commissioners recommended the zoning change with several conditions, including further discussions between ODOT and developers regarding traffic issues.

ODOT Region — Planning Manager Terry Harbor cautioned commissioners not to assume that funding will be available to fix the interchange once a Home Depot is built.

If the City Council adopts the Planning Commission recommendation, then with some certainty we expect to see increased gridlock on both sides of the interchange, he said Tuesday.

We know that the increased traffic will compromise safety and from what I heard last night, we know local residents will experience added frustration in the area.

We don't have all the dollars in hand, as I said that last night, nor do we have any promise of receiving the balance for a construction project. The decision of forwarding that land-use application and the dollars are not linked at all.

Robertson said he was pleased with what he called a fair decision.

I think the Planning Commission members were very deliberate and covered all the issues. They decided it was time for Phoenix to grow and that Home Depot would make a nice cornerstone for the city.

Traffic congestion along Fern Valley Road is a concern among Phoenix residents who fear a Home Depot would only make matters worse. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli