The Linn County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a zoning code text amendment that will allow restaurants within the Urban Development I zoning district as long as they obtain a conditional use permit.
Restaurants had not previously been listed as an approved use within the zoning.
The action came after Eats & Treats, a cafe that serves gluten-free meals and desserts, moved into the Eastgate Business Center, about a mile and a half west of Corvallis on Highway 34. The cafe currently occupies about 864 square feet but wants to expand another 1,000 square feet for additional seating.
The cafe is owned by Sandy and Lynda McHenry and employs about three people per shift.
Although they did not testify, 15 people favoring the amendment attended the meeting in support of Eats & Treats.
It is being “grandfathered in” to the zone, and will not need to apply for a conditional use permit unless it expands to more than 2,000 square feet.
The Eastgate Business Center includes about 20 businesses including computer manufacturing, agricultural products, electronics controls manufacturing, car repair, a print shop, carpet cleaning and more. They are housed in eight buildings.
All building spaces are leased, ranging from 200 square feet to more than 11,000 square feet.
On Feb. 12, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the text change to the commissioners.
Rich Catlin, land use planner with Reece and Associates, said the cafe meets the county’s code because it is a “similar” use as other businesses within the center. He said it shares the characteristics of size and scale, appearance, and customer traffic flow, among other things.
“Currently, it takes up only 1 percent of the center’s total building space and even after expanding, it will take up less than 2 percent,” Catlin said.
Commissioner John Lindsey said he was concerned that a restaurant might add to traffic flow problems already associated with Highway 34, especially on high-use days when there are home OSU football games.
The Oregon Department of Transportation also noted written concerns about traffic issues to the Planning Department. ODOT contends that Highway 34 “has been designated to move a high volume of traffic at fast speeds,” calling it an “access Oregon highway.”
Adding restaurant uses to the UD-I zoning could create traffic safety issues due to the number of vehicles that would need to turn off the highway to access the business.
Commissioner Will Tucker said that when he worked with Hewlett-Packard, he supervised 30 employees in an area where there was no cafe.
“It’s really nice if people don’t have to get into their cars and drive somewhere for lunch,” Tucker said.