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Safeway pulls out of land deal for new 'big box'

Safeway has dropped its plans to build a bigger store in Hood River County, a decision based in part on new "big box" size restrictions.

That same commercial code, recently adopted by both city and county elected officials, could also limit the available space for expansion of the existing store on West Cascade Avenue.

Last week the grocery chain pulled out of a deal to buy about eight acres from three separate owners on the western edge of the city. That property, adjacent to Stonehedge Gardens Restaurant, lies within the Urban Growth Area and is under county jurisdiction.

Bridget Flanagan, Safeway public affairs director for Oregon/Southwest Washington, said the purchase fell through because it no longer seemed feasible given the county's new "footprint" code, which goes into effect later this month, and the high costs to develop the uneven ground.

She said Safeway had wanted to build a new 58,000 square foot store that would provide more shelf space to meet a growing customer demand. However, the new 50,000 square foot size restriction on new commercial buildings hampered those plans.

"It's disappointing that a major national business that has been a part of our community for almost 80 years can't deal with our excessive regulations and pulled out of a project that would have been good for our economic and employment base," said Glenn Taylor, one of the involved owners.

Flanagan said Safeway will now take a look at extending its existing 46,000 square foot holdings in Hood River. Although the city has the same size restrictions on new commercial buildings, the footprint code allows established retailers to increase their holdings by 10 percent if these plans meet additional design criteria.

"Our goal now is to go back to the drawing table, review our existing options, and find the best way to meet the needs of the community," said Flanagan.

She said Safeway is well pleased with the popularity of its Hood River store and, while no timeline has been set for a future course of action, the grocer has no plans to relocate.

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