COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Planning Commission has unanimously approved Western Oregon Advanced Health's site plan and architectural review application to build a new medical campus on the property adjacent to Oregon Coast Community Action.

Situated at 281 LaClair St., the application calls for the construction of a 14,672-square-foot office building, a 21,762-square-foot medical clinic and a 246-space parking lot on 5.11 acres of undeveloped land.

"Aside from the peripheral concerns that I had, it's a fundamentally good plan," commissioner John Peery said. "There's nice aesthetics, it looks like it's going to blend well, and it doesn't look like there's going to be too much negativity in terms of the impact in the existing community, plus it's going to be a boon to this area of Coos Bay."

Speaking to the benefits of a new medical campus, Western Oregon Advanced Health CEO Phil Greenhill said the county would have a place to move its services from the North Bend Annex while also having the opportunity to house a student clinic for Southwestern Oregon Community College.

"This will employ probably 150 people on this site, and it will give a new public health and mental health building to the area," Greenhill said.

In addition to providing additional services, developer Richard Ward said there have been conversations about bringing the CCAT transit plaza originally discussed for downtown Coos Bay nearby. 

"We are in the process of doing that design," Ward said. "My understanding is that would come back for approval, but yes, we are working on that, and brain cells are dying daily."

As part of its approval, planning administrator Tom Dixon said the city has put in 24 conditions for the applicant to meet, which included addressing traffic impact, the biggest point of contention during Tuesday's meeting.

While the city's staff report called for restriping near the intersection of LaClair Street and Ocean Boulevard, both commissioners Peery and Christine Coles raised safety concerns and the potential need for a traffic signal.

"I think it is very difficult to maneuver left when people are zipping up that hill and over and suddenly the view of here you are," Peery said. "That's one of the reasons why this hill currently has so many problems, so the restriping in my estimation is a shortcut to what is needed."

Countering Peery and Coles, Ward cited both the recommendation of his traffic expert, Jim Hanks — who was in attendance to offer his expertise and answer questions — and the opinions of city staff.

"From my perspective, we were asked to hire a consultant to look at that interchange," Ward said. "We were also asked to pay for the city's consultant to review that and the recommendation is not to have a traffic signal, but to restripe."

With WOAH financing a major portion of the project and without grant funding, Greenhill also said imposing the light could derail the project.

"With both of our consultants telling us the lack of need for a traffic light, that could end up being a deal-killer," Greenhill said. "This is now a $7 million project. It's not a project being done with federal funds."

Satisfied by the expert opinions provided, the planning commission also took public comment from residents of nearby Lindberg Avenue, who expressed concerns over safety from increasing traffic and nearby unsafe trees.

"We're going to go back out with our landscaper and see which trees in landscaped areas are safe and we would save those," Ward said. "If they are not safe and you deem they are not safe, we're going to take those out. I'm a tree guy so you're probably going to see me plant more trees."

Ward said the facility would also have a 6-foot cedar fence as a buffer between residents' property and the medical property where applicable.

Because a portion of the facility's property is wetlands, that area cannot be disturbed without requiring additional permitting. 

Having addressed the concerns of the planning commission, Dixon said the applicant's 15-day appeal period will likely start Friday.

Reporter Devan Patel can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or by email at devan.patel@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DevanJPatel.

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