Saturday, February 6, 2016

Planning Commission to Consider Credit Union Drive-through on Division and High

On Tuesday the Planning Commission finally gets to the proposed drive-through for MAPS Credit Union on the odd parcel bounded by Liberty, Mill Creek, High/Broadway, and Division.

MAPS proposed drive-through with access points

Existing conditions at Division and High
It's not a particular site plan review, however, and instead as a more general code change the matter is framed up as
Should the City amend Salem Revised Code Chapter 613 to allow drive-through banks and credit unions as a conditional use in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone, and establish design standards for drive-through uses in the Broadway/High Street Retail Overlay Zone?
Theoretically, if this is approved, other banks and credit unions that might wish to locate inside the boundaries of the overlay zone might also be able to put in a drive-through. As a practical matter this seems unlikely, and so the bet almost certainly is that this is a "general" change to approved conditional uses that affects one entity in particular only. As written the code amendments exclude other kinds of drive-throughs like those for fast food or other kinds of retail.

So this seems pretty narrow. (See the previous discussion here for why this isn't a crazy request by the credit union, and instead is pretty reasonable.)

The alley off Division and the Auto Body building
(Could the building be saved and reused?)
If there are quibbles, it's that the "conceptual site plan" at top shows mostly a reshuffling of space and building. There's a mid-century building right on the alley that looks like it will be demolished. There's also a shed like thing. Both would be replaced by a bank building on the corner with the drive-through on the back side.

The ratio of parking lot/building looks about the same. I was hoping there would be more building and less parking lot.

There's also an existing curb-cut and driveway on High Street and rather than closing this and making all the drive-through access off the alley, it looks like the alley disappears. The curb-cut and driveway on Division would stay, but the alley itself gets swallowed by the landscaping and a rank of parking stalls.

It seems like the project could do more to emphasize the pedestrian character of High/Broadway and Division, and de-emphasize the character of parking lot and auto traffic flow.

On the other hand, it's important to recognize what the project positively does. At least in concept, it's sited on the corner, not one of these 90-degree turns we've been seeing. It's also flush to the sidewalk with zero-setback and shows an entry right on the corner itself. As a three-story streetcar scaled building, it's exactly the kind of thing we want more of!

It does not seem wise to be at all dogmatic about this proposed drive-through and development, and even if there's a little grumble, grumble, mostly it looks like something to accept and even embrace.

Staff Recommendation is for the Commission to approve and move forward with the proposed code amendments at Council.

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