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Columbia Riverkeeper is holding a film screening tonight at the Columbian Theater in Astoria. The issue: dam removal on the Snake River. Doors open at 6:30, Q&A with film makers after the films. Joanne Rideout reports. listen 11/07/2019
The City of Astoria will see more river cruise ships in coming years, thanks to a new agreement just approved for the 17th Street Dock. Joanne Rideout has the story. Script below, scroll down to Listen [run time: 2:37] --------------------------------------------------------------------- The Astoria City Council this week approved a lease with cruise company American Cruise Lines that will allow the company continue to dock its river cruise ships at the 17th Street Dock by the Columbia River Maritime Museum. ACL will manage the dock for the city, which will free up city staff from these duties. The cruise company will pay the city $80,000 annually for three years. After that the city will receive an additional $500 for each vessel that docks there above a threshold of 110 vessels. The agreement will allow faster repairs of dock infrastructure, and ACL will cover improvements to the facility. The plan is to eventually allow two river cruise ships to dock at the 17th street dock at the same time. During the public comment period, Astoria resident Fred White complained that noise from the cruise ships already causes problems at his home on the hill above the dock. He asked the city to consider shoreside power options, in which ships dock and then shut off their engines and plug into power on the dock. The USCG already uses shore power when their cutters are at the dock. This allows ships to shut off their engines and generators and still have electrical power. Here's Fred White: Fred White: “I object to a lease that does not address the air and noise pollution that occurs when two cruise ships are docked at the same time at the 17th Street Dock.” White said since river cruise ships currently idle at the dock continuously while they are in port, the noise continues around the clock and is loud enough to disrupt sleep for him and his wife. Councilor Tom Brownson said he investigated White's complaint, and when a river cruise ship was docked there, he also went up on the Astoria hillside near White's home to listen. Tom Brownson: “And I went up to Irving, near Fred's home. And, uh, sure enough, I heard the same rumble, clear as day.” The council ultimately agreed to include shore power in expansion plans for the dock when cruise ship volume increases to the point that there are regularly two river cruise ships docked by the museum. Any expansion plans for the dock would be modified to include shoreside power for cruise ships. The council voted unanimously to approve the new lease. Another cruise line, American Queen Steamboat Company, a competitor of ACL, also competed for the lease, but the city ultimately chose ACL. The lease includes provisions to protect American Queen from being negatively affected by the current lease. American Cruise Lines is headquartered in Connecticut. The line operates twelve small cruise ships along the Eastern Seaboard and Western Seaboard as well as the Mississippi-Ohio and Columbia-Snake river systems. I'm Joanne Rideout reporting. listen 10/26/2019
The Astoria City Council approved significant city code changes Monday night, the culmination of a lengthy process involving extensive public input. Joanne Rideout has details. Script below or scroll down to Listen [run time: 5:20] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The new code modifies regulations affecting waterfront construction within city limits, in an area known as the Bridge Vista Overlay Zone, which runs from Second Street to Portway Street in the Uniontown district of the city, west of downtown. The new code limits construction to 28 ft in height, with an exception to 35 ft. for businesses that provide public access. Buildings can occupy no more than 50 percent of a lot and can encompass up to 30,000 sq feet. The amendment also included changes that would preserve waterfront view corridors at the foot of Bay and Basin streets, changes which will positively affect small businesses in Uniontown by maintaining their views of the Columbia River. The council held a second reading of the amendment and ultimately passed it unanimously. However, the decision happened amid continued pushback from the Port of Astoria. To allow members of the audience to weigh in again on the proposed code changes, Mayor Bruce Jones opened public comment during the meeting. Port Commission President Dirk Rohne spoke, and recapping what he'd said at the previous meeting, objected to the Uniontown view corridors, which will affect how construction is situated on port property near the Astoria Megler Bridge. Rohne again called the the view corridor code changes “last minute,” and added that they amounted to “condemning city property.” The council included those code changes after owners of the Workers Tavern and Columbia River Coffee Roasters raised objections to Port of Astoria plans to allow a hotel to be built on port waterfront property that would obstruct their views. The port owns a parcel of land, under the Astoria Megler Bridge, which it has leased to Hollander Hospitality to build another hotel on the waterfront. Hollander is the same company that is building a 45-foot tall hotel project at the foot of 2nd St., on the site of the old Ship Inn restaurant. The ensuing controversy over that project and the allowable height of buildings in that area of town was the inspiration for the more limited code that was passed at this meeting. After Rohne's comments during the public comment period, Councilor Roger Rocka asked city attorney Blair Henningsgaard to clarify comments about whether the city could actually be considered to be condemning port property. Here's Blair Henningaard: Blair Henningsgaard: “You can only condemn private property you can only condemn city property, so whatever happens it's not a condemnation. I believe he's referring to some statements that were made when this amendment was passed last week. It was suggested - I had been concerned about due process and allowing the property owner to address those questions...” Rocka said that while he might be willing to discuss view corridors with the port, his view of the situation had not changed. Roger Rocka: “I think the comments perhaps oversimply what the city's role is. And the things that we need to worry about that the port doesn't. We need lots of respect about infrastructure. Well, ,the Port uses our infrastructure. And so those are the things that we need to think about, and it's very difficult for us to be gung-ho and supportive of what the Port is wanting to do, and we have no clue of what the Port is planning to do. We've heard some rumors and they're not attractive rumors.” Councilor Tom Brownson said the process to create the current code changes had been lengthy. Tom Brownson: “With the exception of your previous director, and Mr. Spence, the Port was not in attendance. We've been having a long. year-long process on this whole thing, and I realize you guys are busy [Port Commission Chair Dirk Rohne interjects, “Except for that last bit.”]. Well, that's when you showed up. That's when you showed up. Right so, it's not that we didn't really work through this, and work hard and get a lot of detail.” Councilor Joan Herman said she was not comfortable making changes to the proposed code to affect Uniontown view corridors because the citizens and business owners who had weighed in on the changes had not attended Monday's meeting, because they thought the issue was solved. Mark 35. Mayor Bruce Jones said he was very satisfied with the proposed code changes. Bruce Jones: “So following this through the Planning Commission events, and to our own meetings over the last several months, I'm very satisfied with the Bridge Vista Overlay Zone code amendments. So I think it's a very good and reasonable compromise.” After the vote, the council moved on to other more routine matters, approving funding for sewer pipe repairs on Lexington ave. Councilor Roger Rocka commented on the difficult process the council had taken on as they amended city code. Roger Rocka: “I'd just like to say I'm delighted to be talking about sewers – where there are no friendships lost, or people upset, Just a nice – sewer.” [Audience laughter...] Councilors agreed at the end of the meeting to set up a joint meeting between the city and the Port of Astoria to discuss future planning. I'm Joanne Rideout reporting. listen 10/26/2019
At Monday night’s Astoria City Council meeting, councilors again faced a full house and a packed agenda. Joanne Rideout reports. Fort George Brewery’s impending purchase of the sprawling Astoria Warehousing property on the waterfront on Marine Drive was front and center in the meeting, with the brewery intending to use the property for storage and distribution space. To that end, the brewery received approval from the council for a wholesale liquor license for the premises. The big ticket item of the evening was the city council’s approval of $1 million in state grant funds to clean up in-ground contamination on the Astoria Warehousing site. The funds, approved under Oregon House Bill 5050, allow Business Oregon (the Oregon Business Development Department) to disburse the funds to the City of Astoria. The city then as a separate agreement with a company called Blue Jumpsuit, LLC, registered to Chris Nemlowill, who is one of the founders of Ft George. Blue Jumpsuit represents Fort George in the contract and will use the funds to clean up the Astoria Warehousing site. Nemlowill was at the meeting, and spoke to the council. He said Fort George had spent the last 20 months considering the purchase of waterfront property in Astoria. He also explained the origin of the name Blue Jumpsuit. Chris Nemlowill: “Blue Jumpsuit was named for one of the first things we saw when we went on to the property. There was all these blue jumpsuits on the wall when you first walked in. It was what all the employees wore who were down there. We thought it was the best thing to name the LLC on the waterfront after all the blue collar workers that worked down there. And so we named it “Blue Jumpsuit, LLC.” Council members were happy to hear that a piece of property critical to the preservation of the waterfront would be purchased by a local business. Councilor Roger Rocka: “You judge what somebody will do by what they have done, and Fort George has been an outstanding citizen in our community.” Perhaps the biggest issue on the agenda was the council’s consideration of an amendment to city code regarding waterfront development in a stretch along the river known under city code as the Bridge Vista Overlay Zone. The zone extends from Portway St to Second St. Councilors ultimately voted 4-1 to approve the first reading of a proposal that would limit building height to 28 feet, with the possibility of 35 (that’s three stories) for buildings that allow public access to the Riverwalk through their property in exchange for the extra height. Maximum building mass would be 30,000 sq feet. The amendment limits buildings to occupying no more than 50 percent of a lot and buildings must honor a north-south orientation to preserve views. The council approved the proposal on a 4-1 vote for the first reading. If there are no further changes to the amendment, the council could approve it at their next meeting and it would then become part of city code. In the 4-1 vote, Councilor Joan Herman voted no because the proposal did not include a suggestion she made to limit two story buildings to 20,000 square feet to control structure sprawl. Since the council also wanted to allow further discussion of a proposal to preserve view corridors in the Uniontown district for businesses on the south side of Marine Drive under the bridge, the discussion on those changes was continued till the next council meeting. Under discussion is the view across port property near the Maritime Memorial, currently under lease to Hollander Hospitality. Hollander is the company that gained approval to build the 45-foot tall Fairfield hotel on the site of the old Ship Inn Restaurant on the waterfront at 2nd street. Hollander also reportedly plans to build a hotel on the Uniontown port property. Other items discussed in the meeting included a proposed condominium development in the Mill Pond neighborhood of Astoria on land currently owned by the city. A developer is proposing building condos on already platted lots, which would require that piers be built over the water in the pond. Homeowners have made an offer to the city to help compensate Astoria for the property and leave it undeveloped. During council discussion. Mayor Jones said the homeowner’s proposal did not adequately compensate the city for the loss of tax revenue, but the council ultimately allowed the Mill Pond Homeowners Association to reconfigure their offer for future consideration during the council's November 4th meeting. The council also approved a first reading of the Astoria Uniontown Reborn Master Plan, which would reconfigure traffic patterns, encourage pedestrian and bicycle access, and set other code requirements to strengthen the livability and economic vitality of that area. If the council approves this plan, it would still require state funding to implement parts of it related to the Oregon Dept of Transportation. ODOT project manager Mike Duncan, who spoke at the meeting said it could be a decade before Astoria would see any state funding to implement traffic pattern changes on Marine Drive. Other parts of the plan under city control, such as landscaping and lighting, could be implemented much sooner. The council voted unanimously to a first reading of the plan, and could approve it at their next meeting. The Astoria City Council meets again on Monday, Oct 7, at 7 pm, in the city council chambers at 1095 Duane Street. listen 10/04/2019
Today, September 24th, is National Voter Registration Day, and you can make sure you are registered to vote by updating your voter registration information. Here in Astoria, volunteers from Indivisible North Coast Oregon will be on hand to assist you with registering and updates. They'll be at the Astoria Senior Center at 11th and Exchange St in Astoria, from 10 am to 2 pm today, and also at Clatsop Community College, in the 2nd floor lobby of Columbia Hall, located at 16th and Lexington. If you’ve moved since you last registered, you need to provide your new address to make sure you get your ballot. If you want to vote in a party primary election, you can do that in Oregon only if you are registered with that party. In Oregon, registering as Independent makes you a member of the Independent Party. To be non-affiliated, you must choose “Not a member of a party.” In Oregon, ex-felons can vote, and have to re-register. People on parole can also vote. Only felons still in prison can't vote. People without identification issued by the DMV can use the last four numbers of their Social Security number. You can register anytime at the County Clerk’s office in your town. In Astoria, that's at 820 Exchange, Ste. 200. You can also register to vote on-line through the Oregon Secretary of State website. listen 09/24/2019
Military personnel bus crashes on Hwy 101 in Manzanita by Joanne Rideout Early Tuesday morning, a bus carrying military personnel was involved in a crash on Hwy 101 in Manzanita. On board the bus were 46 Army National Guard members from from Medford, Oregon. The bus had left Camp Rilea in Warrenton, headed south on Hwy 101 en route to Portland. Passengers became concerned after the driver, Kenneth Alexander of Vancouver, Washington, missed the turn onto Hwy 26, used his cell phone, and showed signs of impairment. Not long after wards, in Manzanita, the driver lost control of the bus and crashed it on the sidewalk. The driver was transported to local hospital for evaluation. No other injuries were reported. The City of Manzanita opened City Hall to the members of the National Guard until another bus arrived. The Tillamook County District Attorney’s Office will review the case for charges of Driving under the Influence and 46 counts of Reckless Endangering against the driver. listen 09/18/2019