VANCOUVER, WA-Developer C.E. John Co. is one-step ahead in its effort to build a three-story office building on a vacant riverfront lot next to an existing development it owns along Southeast Columbia River Drive.

Hearings Examiner J. Richard Forester last week approved plans for the proposed Columbia Shores Commerce Center that would rise on the lot immediately east of Beaches restaurant, which leases its space from C.E. John Co., though maybe not for long.

Restaurant owner Mark Matthias is fighting the project, in part because that lot next door is what attracts his patrons. Beaches uses the sand-filled space for beach volleyball, barbecue and live music, Wednesday through Saturday, all summer long. Insufficient parking was his argument to the examiner, however, albeit unsuccessful.

Matthias is planning to appeal the examiner’s decision to the city council, but the council will likely back up the hearings examiner, who described Vancouver’s parking standards as “manifestly inadequate,” and then approved the project because it met the letter of the law.

Vancouver parking standards require very few spaces as a way to encourage the use of mass transit, and discourage the placement of parking lots on prime riverfront property. For example, Beaches is required to have only four parking spaces. Next door, the larger McMenamins on the Columbia passes muster with just seven parking spots.

Even if the council decides to revise parking standards, C.E. John’s proposal would have to be “vested” under the old standards. Mathias has until the end of the month to file his appeal.

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