Bad news first: Bob Barman's Chevron gas station near Bethany Lake has been approved by the Hearings Officer. With the bad news out of the way, let's talk about the good news and what can be done now. Oh, and I wrote a great (ok, acceptable) joke about all of this at the end.
Lets get into it.
Washington County has laws that require commercial developments to improve the "half street" frontage of a property (ordinance 745) in Bethany. And Bob has been fighting this requirement claiming that the County and taxpayers should pay for it instead. Why? Well, frankly it is going to cost quite a bit of money to bring this segment of West Union up to code and Bob has shown a deep desire to not spend that money. The Staff report from November on page 5 outlines all of the work that the applicant needs to pay for:
Complete NW West Union Road half-street improvements to a county Arterial (A-1) standard with the Enhanced Major Street Bikeway designation to include but not limited to the following: paving, sidewalk, planter strip, curb and gutter, ADA ramps, street trees, signing, illumination, utility re-location, bike lane, and drainage and two commercial driveways.
Over 4 pages the Hearings Officer rejects all of the traffic estimate math tricks and planning sleight of hand that Bob and team have tried to use to wiggle out of this half street requirement. They wanted to pass the buck to taxpayers to improve West Union to handle the estimated 23% increase in traffic the gas station and convenience store will create on this road segment. And they failed, rightfully.
This campaign continues to accomplish good things for our community through our advocacy. Since Bob Barman created his first station proposal in April 2020 we have seen the design shrink and every exception and variance get denied:
|Item||Apr 2020 Application||Jan 2023 Approved Application|
|🛢️ Undeground petroleum storage||52,000 gallons||40,000 gallons|
|⛽️ Fuel pumps||12 pumps||8 pumps|
|🏪 Convenience store footprint||6,728 sq ft store||4,428 sq ft store|
|🚦 Half street improvement||Taxpayers pay||Applicant pays|
|🛣️ Lot setback reduction||17 foot reduction||0 foot reduction|
Land Use Board of Appeal
We are discussing with our lawyer about whether to appeal the Hearings Officer decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeal (LUBA). This is a difficult decision, as frankly, the Washington County laws, as written today, explicitly allow for a gas station use on this property. It isn't right. It is downright infuriating.
Also, I want to note, that any one of the 50+ members of the public who have commented on this application could take the case to LUBA too if they desire.
Court of Public Opinion
The law isn't the only thing at play. Frankly, Bob Barman thinks of himself as a bit of a "leader in sustainability" as he is quoted in a 2012 industry fluff piece about using LED lightbulbs at his Highland Chevron:
The payoff is also intangible – it’s what your customers think of you as a leader in sustainability and how you think of yourself
If Bob wants to proceed with his Chevron adjacent Bethany Lake that is, unfortunately, his property right. However, I hope you all join me to ensure Bob Barman understands that this sort of greenwashing is repugnant and unwelcome in Bethany. And he is not "doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do" as he is, hilariously, quoted as saying in a 2011 Oregonian article about, you guessed it, using LED lightbulbs in his gas stations.
This whole situation made me think up a joke:
(Oh, yes, you know there is a third 2014 article about Bob's lightbulbs 🙄)
We need to ensure that Bob Barman is remembered as the last person to get a gas station approved next to sensitive areas in Washington County. On December 21st 2022, I sent an updated letter requesting gas station siting restrictions to Washington County Commissioners co-signed by 283 residents from across all districts in the County. Let's keep the pressure up!
Are you upset about today's news? Take action now:
P.S. To underscore how insolvent gas stations are becoming, Washington State Rep. Beth Doglio introduced HB 1175 which proposes to have the Washington State government cover the insurance of aging gas stations without requiring that gas station owners update their tanks. Ridiculous. Make no mistake, this is the future for Oregon, too.
P.P.S. Of course I have duck content for you. Since the new year I have been commuting past the ducks on Rock Creek every day M-F as I bike my daughter to school. Saying hi is a highlight of this new morning ritual.