Voices

Otis Orchards Mall Spurned

Otis Orchards residents fighting to maintain the rural character of their neighborhood blocked a developer’s plan Tuesday for a strip mall.

Gene Cohen’s project already had been denied by the county planning department and hearing examiner committee.

On Tuesday, Cohen appealed to county commissioners to rezone his 25 acres at Harvard Road and Euclid Avenue from semi-rural to regional business. His plan was to construct five buildings with retail offices. He did not elaborate beyond that.

After an hour and a half of testimony, commissioners rejected the project by a 3-0 vote, calling it spot zoning and a violation of the county’s comprehensive land use plan.

“It would adversely impact the small community of Otis Orchards,” Commissioner Steve Hasson said.

Commissioner John Roskelley applauded Cohen’s research of the area and his generosity in offering to build the neighborhood a park, but he agreed the “comprehensive plan is not something we can indiscriminately throw away.”

Resident David Trainer said he moved to Otis Orchards because the area’s zoning prohibited business encroachment.

He got 108 signatures on a petition opposing the project.

“If we wanted to live on a cul-de-sac or in the suburbs, we would have moved there,” added resident Martin Ekenes.

Cohen argued that Otis Orchards’ growth is outpacing services. He noted that he has agreements to obtain water and qualifies for a septic system.

He also said his land is “very near” the county’s proposed urban impact area.

One opponent argued that Cohen’s offer to build a park didn’t surface until the project appeared doomed. “He’s Monty Hall and ‘Let’s Make a Deal,”’ the man said.

Cohen did not return a telephone call Wednesday.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map: Proposed 25-acre rezoning



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