Neighborhood appeal puts Kuebler Gateway Shopping Center on hold

The site of the proposed Kuebler Gateway Shopping Center in South Salem. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Costco’s road to a new location in south Salem is not over after neighbors appealed the city’s recent decision to allow the Kuebler Gateway Shopping Center. The appeals trigger what could be months of more deliberation.

The South Gateway Neighborhood Association, and three neighbors acting on their own through an attorney, cited a number of reasons why Salem planners should not have approved the nearly 200,000-square-foot project in late October.

They contend the shopping center project grew over the years into something incompatible with the area, that the city relied on a flawed traffic analysis, that it threatens to uproot protected trees and that it will pollute the nearby air and water.

Attorney Karl Anuta’s appeal on behalf of the three neighbors — Lora Meisner, William Dalton and John D. Miller —  also claims the city didn’t disclose pertinent documents before its decision and argues “the public was likely misled.”

“This raises substantive and procedural due process concerns,” Anuta said in his appeal.

(DOCUMENTS: Read the appeals and the city’s approval here)

With the appeal in place, a hearings officer is slated to hear the case Dec. 12. The Salem City Council can opt to take it up directly and will get a report on the situation Tuesday.

City planners approved a site plan for the Kuebler Gateway Shopping Center, a Costco-anchored retail plaza, on Oct. 23. It would be built along Kuebler Boulevard to the south, between Battle Creek Road and 27th Avenue.

A shopping center has long been proposed at the 18-acre field along Kuebler Boulevard between Battle Creek Road and 27th Avenue. PacTrust, the owner, moved to rezone the field in 2006.

The new appeals contend that the project has morphed in the years since and no longer matches what councilors defined as a “shopping center.” That definition didn’t include a major, big box retailer and a 30-pump gas station, the appeals said.

The appeals also oppose removing a grove of Oregon white oak trees, which are deemed “significant” under Salem city code. The appeals said the trees should be preserved, but that is not assured in the city’s approval.

And the appeals argue the city relied on a traffic analysis that did not factor in other planned projects that also would add traffic.

“There have been other projects that (the city has) approved that are not yet built, that were not taken into account,” Anuta told Salem Reporter.

Lora Meisner, one of the neighbors who retained Anuta, said she hopes the city council will hear the appeal.

“I think they should be the final arbiters since they represent the entire city and I don’t think a lot of people get that this is going to impact more than just south Salem,” Meisner said.

“The thing that really angers me is that PacTrust told the mayor and city council a number of years ago that it would be a neighborhood shopping center, and Costco is not a neighborhood shopping center,” she added.

City planners said the appeal would have to be settled by Feb. 1.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.