Residents ask city to hold the McDonald's in Uptown Village

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter

Published:

 

The stretch of Main Street in Vancouver known as Uptown Village has become a destination for diners, with an array of options, including pasta, pizza, tamales and ice cream.

Big Macs, many neighbors say, don't fit the area's vibe. They oppose McDonald's proposed 4,300-square-foot restaurant at Main Street and West Fourth Plain Boulevard. A "Stop Downtown McDonalds-VanWa" Facebook page has garnered some 800 followers.

Neighbors have expressed more outrage at the prospect of a corporate burger chain than the marijuana store opening on Main Street this month.

The spot for the proposed McDonald's is at the nexus of four neighborhood associations. The proposed restaurant would require razing three abandoned buildings on a site of 88-hundredths of 1 acre that lies in the Shumway neighborhood, but is adjacent to Carter Park, Hough and Arnada.

"All of us are watching. As much as it's Shumway's issue, everyone will be impacted," said Lisa Ghormley, president of the Shumway Neighborhood Association.

Uptown Village's signature is a convergence of independent boutiques and restaurants, but those are south of Fourth Plain Boulevard, where the design district stops. A 7-Eleven sits across the street from the proposed McDonald's site, which is next to a Dairy Queen. Neighbors don't necessarily object to McDonald's locating nearby, Ghormley said. They just don't envision it at that particular busy intersection.

"Half a mile away, there's an empty shopping center with (traffic) signals and plenty of room," said Ghormley, referring to the intersection of Fourth Plain and Kauffman Avenue.

She and other neighborhood activists attended McDonald's May pre-application conference with city planners, the first step in applying for required permits.

"We had every neighborhood in the uptown area represented at the meeting," Ghormley said. "Everyone listed not one but several concerns. The majority of us were most passionate about the traffic. There was a traffic death a couple years ago of a child on a bicycle, and that was with existing circumstances."

An 11-year-old boy died after a collision with a C-Tran bus at Main and 27th streets in 2012.

The city will require a full traffic study that includes a history of crashes at the intersections and analysis of traffic backups.

The proposed McDonald's, as a fast-food restaurant with a drive-through service, would generate an average of 1,066 car trips a day, according to the city's preliminary report.

Depending on the outcome of the full traffic study, the city may require changes to the proposal. For example, right now the idea is to have no vehicle access from Fourth Plain Boulevard, a right-turn-exit-only on Main Street and full access from East 27th Street and from Broadway. But if the city feels there will be too much traffic backup, access from Broadway may be limited.

Neighbors also are worried about the litter, noise and light that would be generated by a 24-hour operation, said Jerrad Isch, president of the Carter Park Neighborhood Association.

Clint Cameron, the Kirkland-based construction manager for McDonald's USA Northwest Region, didn't return The Columbian's calls for this story. But in May, he told The Columbian that the owner-operator hasn't been decided yet, and the restaurant hours will be up to the owner. He also said he's willing to meet with neighbors, but it's too early to discuss details such as whether the design would be modified to better fit in with Uptown Village.

Cameron referred The Columbian's more recent inquiries to corporate headquarters. Robert Stamm, McDonald's director of development, issued a statement: "At McDonald's, we are always looking for opportunities to better serve our customers. Plans to further develop in Vancouver are still preliminary, and therefore it would be premature to comment at this point. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers in the Vancouver area."

Some neighbors have asked the Vancouver City Council to stop the project, but the city doesn't review development applications. Even if the council pursued some sort of moratorium, it wouldn't apply to this particular proposal, which is governed by the rules in place at the time of the pre-application conference — that is, as long as McDonald's files its application within a year. At press time, McDonald's had not yet done so.

If McDonald's proceeds with the proposal, and the city's Community and Economic Development Department approves it, neighbors could appeal the project to the city's hearing examiner, with possible further appeal to Clark County Superior Court.

"I'd like to think we could trust the city," Ghormley said. "We're hoping that the city and the planning department show that this is not a good location."