The Astoria Planning Commission met Wednesday night to talk about waterfront development, vacation rentals, shoreline contamination remediation, and the Astoria Warming Center. Here are some of the highlights: [Listen below]
In what was perhaps their most high profile decision of the evening, commissioners voted to ask planner Rosemary Johnson to draw up a code amendment proposal to restrict waterfront construction height to 28 feet, with an exception to 35 feet for water dependent uses like fishing.
They expressed support for creating special planning districts for the Astoria Warehousing property (a large parcel along Marine Drive) and the Port of Astoria. But they decided these ideas, along with building massing and square footage, deserved more consideration and should be debated in a special work session, ideally with the Astoria City Council. A date for that session has not been set.
The commission will consider height again at their July 23rd meeting, and can choose to take action to approve the code amendment then. If they do, their recommendations will go before the city council. The 28 ft height limit was originally proposed by Astoria City Councilor Roger Rocka, and the idea has support across the council.
The public has expressed repeated support for the 28 ft height limit. Various audience members spoke at the meeting during the public comment period for this agenda item, all expressing sentiments like this:
“…You know I work with the public and I speak to people, all the time from all over. From everywhere, Svensen, Longview, Knappa, everywhere. All over. And it’s overwhelming, how many people, really don’t want to see height development, Seaside type development on the waterfront. And it’s so overwhelming. I just feel like, if you vote this think through, or go back to 48 feet, or blah blah blah – I really believe that you’re not listening. And, there’s a lot of frustration out there with this issue and it’s a very potent issue.”
Also on the agenda was the request from Stewardship Homes to take an existing long term rental property on Commercial Street near the Astoria Post Office and convert into short term lodging. The commission voted unanimously to deny this request, saying it was not beneficial to the city, which is overall seeking to add to the long term housing stock, not diminish it.
Acting commission chair Daryl Moore called for a motion, regular chair Sean Fitzpatrick was excused from the meeting and was not present:[Commissioner Cindy Price makes motion] “I move that the Astoria Planning Commission adopt the findings and conclusions contained in the staff report and deny conditional use request CU-1904 by Stewardship Homes.” [Commissioner Jennifer Cameron-Lattek] “I second.” [Commissioner Daryl Moore] “Motion by Commissioner Price, second by Cameron-Lattek. All those in favor:”
“Aye” [Unanimous] [Moore] “Opposed [silence]… Motion carries.”
In other agenda items, the commission voted unanimously to approve a request from PacificCorp to do restoration and remediation work in river sediment on the banks of the Columbia River in Astoria just west of the Columbia House condominiums.
The commission also voted unanimously to approve a request from the Astoria Warming Center to operate for 90 days during the 2019-20 fall and winter season. During discussion as to why the center could only operate for 90 days, Warming Center staff and volunteers present at the meeting confirmed that the 90 day rule comes from the state fire marshall and could not be altered,despite inclement weather.
I’m Joanne Rideout reporting.